What is Decoding design?

Decoding means transform, analyze and interpret a message o language, either visual or semiotic.

The project

Decoding Design is a research project launched by ELISAVA in collaboration with elBulliFoundation that is based on an understanding of the design process in accordance with the SAPIENS methodology, developed by Ferran Adrià and elBulliLab in the field of gastronomy.


Decoding Design started in October 2014.

The word decoding comes from the verb to decode, which according to the Oxford Dictionary, means:


  1. “Convert (a coded message) into intelligible language”
  2. Analyse and interpret (a communication or image)”
  3. “Convert (audio or video signals) into a different or usable form, for example to analogue from digital in sound reproduction”

All of these definitions correspond to the concept of decoding, which means transforming, analysing and interpreting a message or language, whether visual or semiotic.


The Decoding Design project is a systematic analysis of the design discipline, primarily focused on analysing the design process and its methodologies with the objective of reaching a better understanding of its structure and content in order to improve efficiency in design practice. The Decoding Project explores the creative process as a unifying force in the design process, and the new scales and dimensions of matter as an inspiration and a driving force for the process itself.


The project also investigates the interrelationship between different fields of the design discipline – traditionally classified as visual communication, fashion, interiors and product – and in other disciplines including engineering, social sciences, art, architecture, pure science and many others.

The first phase of research into decoding design focuses on product design because:

  • It is the interdisciplinary field that establishes most relationships with other fields (visual communication, space and fashion).
  • It is the area in which design research has the most established tradition.
  • It is the area in which matter is the essential element from which the product is generated and materialises.
  • Engineering and design coexist at ELISAVA.
  • There is a need in the market and new opportunities to generate value are sought.
  • Because it is the field of design most directly related to gastronomy.

Why Decoding Design?

The project’s primary objective is to implement results in two relevant areas: education and innovation.


Education. Understand that the design discipline can help to improve teaching quality by generating knowledge and with it the creation of teaching materials, research materials, publications, etc. The new propadeutic course structures valid methodology on academic as well as professional levels. It aims to generate tools and techniques that can help to analyse the processes that stimulate a student or professional’s creativity. Being able to detect the activators or unblockers that increase or limit creativity in the design process is of great interest in contemporary design research.


Innovation. Understanding the design discipline and what it has in common with other disciplines in regard to thematic processes and interrelationships helps to inspire innovative projects in an academic context and especially in a professional and business context. It helps to generate value in academics and the industry.


Good design decoding helps to understand:

  • The interrelationship between the phases of the “design process”.
  • The creative process as a unifying force in the different phases of the design process.
  • The types of problems a professional can face during the different phases of the design processes.
  • What methodologies and techniques are the most appropriate to tackle the design process at different stages.
  • The interdisciplinary character of the different fields of design and how a continually more “specialised” and “interdisciplinary” professional profile is being created because of the complexity of the products appearing in the market.
  • The multidisciplinary nature of design and the possible points where it converges with other disciplines from the perspective of processes.
  • Which part of design knowledge is explicit and can be explained in class and what knowledge is implicit and should be transmitted in an applied form, in workshops and work sessions.

Who is Decoding Design for?

Decoding Design is particularly relevant for the:

  • Educational Field

– Teachers and people in charge of design schools who want to organise design knowledge in a more rational and systematic way.

– Design students who want to organise their learning process.

– Researchers in Design Studies, Design Thinking, or Design Ability who will have a structured platform to organise their research into design.

  • Professional Field

– Design professionals who want to understand their discipline better so that they can channel their knowledge in a more effective way. Designing more efficiently and overcome creative blocks more easily, etc.

 Companies that are interested in implementing an audit focused on the design process and the development of their products.


The propaedeutic function is a fundamental part of this project.