Originally written in February 2013
A Parti or Parti pris (from the French Prendre parti meaning ” to make a decision “) is the chief organising thought or concept behind an architect’s design. Often presented in the form of a basic sketch or short statement.
Matthew Frederick in his book ‘101 Things I Learned in Architecture School’ says,
“A parti is the central idea or concept of a buildingiA parti diagram can describe massing, entrance, spatial hierarchy…and many other concerns… Some will argue that an ideal parti is wholly inclusive – that it informs every aspect of a building from its original configuration and structural system to the shape of the doorknobs. Others believe that a perfect parti is neither attainable nor desirable.”
In digital, this central principle is often missing, and instead relies on previous brand principles, the type of project (e.g. Brand, marketing, content or application) or dominant ideas set by competitors.
In agile development, the idea of epic stories exist, but it is often more of a grouping of user stories rather than the driving principle.
Whether Parti is the term used or not, I think there is some value in defining ‘the big idea’ up front. On a recent project, we defined a phrase, pulled from the brand values, that became the guiding principle of the site, informing design and content. Explicitly doing this also gave a hook on which to hang the story, subsequently bought into by the client.
I’m not sure whether introducing more jargon into the mix is useful or not but sometimes defining something and giving it a label makes it easier for people to understand, use and weave into the process.