Design is a Tool for Everyone

Image credit: -planning-7366/

Design is a tool that can be used outside of the implementing of actual design work. Design is a method for solving problems, and it’s about bringing intention to it. Good design, will always include a humanistic approach to solve a problem. It doesn’t mean that only designers can do this either. Designers learn about individuals, about what they want, don’t want, and then use iteration to present potential solutions based on their findings. They learn from an end user group and leave all assumptions on the table to try to find what the end solution might be. In order to harness this as a universal tool- I’ve identified below a few themes that you can absorb from UX design and repurpose them in your own lives and careers.

Iteration, once you get the hang of it, it’s a super hero power that designers use to solve problems. The beauty of the iteration phase is that it’s low risk, fast, and helps the end user see what the idea is first before you get to something more “high fidelity” or cost/time consuming. Scenario planning can be a part of that iteration process as well, this is where the end user can then visualize the scenario to get them closer to seeing what that future result could be as well as what potential problems may arise. This practice can be used to set alignment or expectation in a variety of projects or situations. A good example of how valuable iteration is outside of UX design, is as simple as looking at someone like Thomas Edison. We can thank him for the 1,000 iterations that ultimately gave us the lightbulb. If you try something and fail, keep trying.

Being “Design Centric” can mean not leaving well enough alone. Organizations or people who are Design Centric will show signs of this trait by looking for opportunity, trying new things and exploring with out hesitation. Or at minimum they will show the desire to want to make it better. Everyone should want to make something better, and being able to identify that something needs to improve is half the battle. If something in your life or job isn’t working, then work to make it better. This philosophy is certainly not exclusive to just design.

Storytelling shouldn’t just be reserved for designers working on a product, it can be something anyone does with a story board using an example of a “lower fidelity” way of getting to what that end solution may be. Gaining buy-in, demonstrating a direction, and getting people excited about it, are all ways that storytelling can be beneficial. Storytelling can be powerful and it’s something everyone can identify with regardless of profession. If we can tell a story of what a person is going to go through and help others understand a little bit more about that person and their struggle… Then we can really examine what the challenges are for that individual and solve for them. This allows others to start to visualize it from their perspective and have a meaningful connection with it. When you cultivate an understanding of context, and everyone gets visceral understandings of a users story, that’s when they begin to understand it on an emotional and personal level. It ultimately helps sell the work, frame the work, and execute on it.

“Often times what we are doing in UX is taking that end result and breaking it into smaller pieces, that we can ship, learn from, iterate on, and then build on and build on over and over again…”

Take this knowledge and try to apply it to anything you do. Think outside the pixels and beyond the screens. Machines and AI are rising quickly and they are replacing a lot of things that humans do every day. Design tools even, are getting more and more robust and capable so we can more quickly create, prototype and collaborate all at the same time. All of this is so that we can spend more time thinking and taking time to dissect problems and find the right solutions. Design is more than what it looks like and people need to think about how we can apply that to things that are not already being designed, and for things that are in desperate need of new ways of thinking. Design is about relationships and how we create relationships between things and people. Take the experience you have about building and fostering relationships and translate that into actionable results.

Senior Product Design Manager (UX) for Wayfair’s Enterprise Product Design Team