The Thing About the Designer’s Eye

My love for “form” came while still a child, from basic irregular wooden waste sawn away by carpenters. Fast-forward a few years; I’m interacting with more complex and diverse media including magazines, websites, TV and real life events. All these and more have shaped my perception and approach towards design thinking.

I have been guided by a few principles including:

1. Be Observant

The first rule is, be calm and observant. Being attentive to details is always unbeatable; and in application, it gives your work that extra shine. Just like Bauhaus architect Mies Van Rohe puts it, “The god is in the detail.”

Observe visual hierarchy. Try to explain why an object is placed where it is, or why a colour is used. Also through observing intricate pattern of a system or admiring its aesthetics, one can pick details that can aid during visualization.

Asymmetrical balance

2. Find Balance

A good designer’s eye knows balance and ways to create one. Finding balance is mostly an empathetic process. You have to feel that the objects in sight are laid out and aligned properly to your preferences. Observing the weight, thickness, intensity or hue/color in the system are crucial factors to notice. However, understanding how some of these factors work and their application requires research, which is the next point.

3. Research

I am a research junkie. My mission, “to be as diverse as possible” has got me looking for exciting and challenging designs from around the world. I constantly feed my eyes with new inspiration from creative portfolios like Behance, Dribbble, VSCO and This channel and a few offline ones like magazines and design books are ways I stay updated with what’s fresh or not. Researching allows you to learn about cultural context and how it influences design. So improve yourself by looking at what the best creative are doing.

4. Be Unbiased

Always be open to new perspectives. Stay receptive and don’t be so quick to label a thing wrong or unfit. Instead, understand the “Why?”, “How?”, “What?” and “Where?” attributes of the design you’re looking at. See from all angles the best actions to take. An unbiased mind will liberate ideas.

5. Pay attention to how it works

I learnt about “Deconstructive Thinking” from Donald Okudu, while working at his design studio in Port Harcourt. This idea literally involves breaking down a process or object to its constituent parts. In doing so, you see an interesting pattern uncover as you learn and understand the structure of things. This is one way to learn how things work.

A homopolar motor

6. Experiment and Accept Criticism

Don’t be afraid to try out that “crazy”, “not good enough” idea in your head because it is only in doing that we learn to fail and succeed. The designer’s eye is a product of countless hours in iteration and prototyping of products & solutions across diverse disciplines. A person who is articulate in critiquing a work has a 90% chance of having done several practical approaches to the same work. Every feedback and criticism about your progress from colleagues, clients and friends would only make you a better designer.

Written by Nsikak John, Edited by Imo-owo Mbede (for Q-drive)

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