GIRI Design Guide Preview: Opening up and closing down

5 Sep 22

The concept of ‘opening up’ and ‘closing down’ a design enables all creative thinking and key decision-making to be completed in good time ahead of preparation of production information. GIRI’s revised Design Guide explains how this can reduce the necessity for change and hence the opportunity for error and outlines how to do it successfully.

GIRI research has indicated that in many instances design changes – which can subsequently lead to errors – become necessary because thought processes and decision-making processes have not been rigorously applied at the appropriate stage. But these can be avoided by defining the opening up and closing down stages of a project and ensuring these are properly conducted.

Design evolves as a project progresses. It starts with an idea or concept, followed by a period of creative thought by a small design team working closely with the client. This process, which we describe as ‘opening up’, generates issues for the team to resolve.

The design is then honed into a workable solution. Finally, the chosen solution is turned into production information – the ‘closing down’ process.

Failure to properly carry out and complete these critical stages frequently leads to design changes further down the line. This could be caused by allocating too little time, money, and importance to the early design stages, or not properly concluding and signing off each stage before moving to the next.

Identify and define the two stages
It is important to understand the difference between the opening up and closing down stages. Sufficient time, resources, and priority should be attached to each, particularly to opening up, to ensure that a concept is sufficiently developed before detailed design begins.

Opening up
Develop a business plan for the project at the start of the opening up process.

At this stage, the client typically assembles a group of experts to prepare the business plan for the proposed scheme. This plan establishes what the client wants to achieve, their aspirations, key risks and opportunities, and any high-level assumptions, and will be used to inform the appointment of designers and project team, at which point it can be developed into a design brief.

It should contain sufficient detail to enable executive review, comment and sign-off; it should also demonstrate that it has been tested against the key visions of the project.

Ensure options are tested and challenged
Test the developed design brief against the key visions through regular team dialogue meetings to confirm its suitability before closing down. It is important to foster a working culture that enables participants to be positive and open-minded to encourage concepts to be challenged and questions raised.

Closing down
As options are fine-tuned, begin the process of closing down to prepare a robust, buildable and affordable design for submission to planning authorities and the preparation of production information.

A more detailed exploration of opening up and closing is available in the revised GIRI Design Guide, which will be published later this year. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified once the guide is published.

Other previews

The briefing process



Investing in design

Contractor input

Planning the design work


Design gateways

Guiding the design process

Stakeholder management


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