Framing: A Tool that Empowers Effective Design and Leadership

Framing, an invaluable tool in my experience as an architectural designer, is essential to both effective design and leadership.

Designing a building is like solving a complex puzzle comprised of client needs, budgetary constraints, building codes, zoning ordinances, and aesthetic preferences to realize a physical, build-able structure. It requires the ability to evaluate design iterations through each constraint’s lens. This practice is called framing. The use of framing creates a broader understanding of design possibilities and needs to inform design and strategy.


The use of framing creates a broader understanding of design possibilities and needs to inform design and strategy.


Whether designing a product or a service, framing plays an important role in the problem solving process. It expands the designer’s vision and helps outline a menu of options. In Unveiling the Magic of Design: The Role of Synthesis, Jon Kolko discusses framing around building software that includes three frames: Ease of Use, Power, and Pleasure. By acknowledging these frames and by looking at the design tasks from each of these lenses, designers yield a deeper understanding of which problems they should solve and how to optimize the design. Framing encourages designers and leaders to analyze various criteria and be intentional about which ones they would like to address. I believe intentionality leads to thoughtful, well executed design.


Framing encourages designers and leaders to analyze various criteria and be intentional about which ones they would like to address.


Framing can be employed to synthesize information and inform strategy. In architecture, understanding what the planning department is looking for and what the client is looking for is critical to devising an effective strategy to allow the design to come to fruition. Similarly, to be successful, leaders need to understand their team member’s different points of view and what each is trying to achieve in order to develop a plan. In The Focused Leader, Daniel Goleman writes that leaders “are not only good listeners but also good questioners. They are visionaries who can sense the far-flung consequences of local decisions and imagine how the choices they make today will play out in the future.” Through framing, leaders can question and use their findings to develop strategies to achieve specific short and long-term goals.

It’s important to note that collaboration enriches framing. Exploring different perspectives can uncover various needs as well as key customer segments. When designers’ findings are shared across teams such as marketing and product development, they can result in a robust design with a rock-solid go-to-market strategy. Insights from framing, combined with market research and corporate strategy, can inform how a leader chooses to proceed. Having options, and having the team back a particular direction, makes design and leadership stronger. As such, framing has the power to boost leadership, improve design, and strengthen go-to-market strategies.


Framing has the power to boost leadership, improve design, and strengthen go-to-market strategies.


With the evaluation of different points of view come critical insights. Framing exposes patterns and needs. It enables architects, designers, and leaders to have a broad vision and provides the opportunity to intentionally focus on a direction. Framing, a tool used in architecture, empowers effective design and leadership.

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