The benefits of this Seven Step Process of Schematic Design
This Schematic Design Process has been developed over many projects. But the nature of design is that there are many ways to get to the end result. The benefits of this Seven Step Process is that each step builds upon the last to avoid re-work, which is the killer of efficiency.
Use the process to explain to your client why you need information from them now rather than later (to avoid additional design costs for them). Whether you use this process or one of your own making, I highly recommend that you standardize on a methodology that your team can use to anticipate what to do.
Even with a standard like this, no two projects will follow it exactly. I think Eisenhower is supposed to have said something along the lines of "The plan is rarely very helpful, but the planning is indispensable."
Also, remember to review each step with your client to make sure your interpretations and understandings are on target with their needs. Yes, pesky, but necessary.
Step 1 - Organization
Step 2 - Site Analysis
Some of this may not apply, but it is best to start with the big picture.
Step 3 - Building Program
Digest the owner's program in detail. Keep in mind what you learned from the site analysis.
Step 3.5 - Technical Design Diagnostic [TDD]
See what the Technical Design Diagnostic is all about here.
Step 4 - Bubble Diagram
Using the site analysis as a base drawing, and the building program as the pieces of the puzzle -
Step 5 - Site/Floor Plan
Using the bubble diagram as your guide and the topo site plan as the base drawing, lay out the building ground floor to scale using blocks of space for each group or department. Include infrastructure spaces like stairs, elevators, toilets, major corridors, etc. if there are other levels show them as an exploded view or off to the side; but consider them critical to proof of concept.
This is going to have a major impact on everything that comes after. Get all the input you are comfortable with. Sleep on the first solution(s). This isn't a final floor plan, so some loose ends are OK; but everything should hang together and look like all the project goals will be addressed.
Step 6 - Massing Diagram
When you have a lot of experience designing, you may have considered this step as part of step five. REVIT or Vectorworks may have allowed you to see where the design was heading in three dimensions. But the point of this step is to make sure the shape that the building is taking doesn't have unfortunate consequences.
So if you have not considered these issues yet now is the time to block out the elevations or a 3D model to see what the layout decisions you have been making are giving you to work with. Now is the perfect time to decide to tweak the plan to achive the overall look you want for the building - say a symmetry that's not quite right yet.
Step 7 - Pulling It All Together
The end result you need is an acknowledgement that this is the building concept that you should pursue. Once given this approval, you are entitled to additional compensation if the concept changes significantly; so it is important that your client understands the project thoroughly.
It is counterproductive to get a 'go-ahead’ from your client based on feelings. Make sure your client understands your design. Without understanding, dissatisfaction with the project later is much more likely.
One dissatisfied client outweighs ten happy ones.