Kalibrr Design
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Kalibrr Design

How Curiosity Can Make You A Better Designer

I’m not a cat person, but I generally find them adorable. They’re always on the lookout for the strangest things — lasers, rolling balls, empty cans, and mice that they keep on chasing. Cats keep themselves curious despite having to climb a very high wall. As they risk their nine lives for it, they get killed in the process most of the time.

People say curiosity killed the cat because they are too inquisitive about the things around them. But we, too, are of the same nature in different ways. We incessantly ask questions to know the causality of things that happen in our surroundings and sometimes when we already know how and why they come into being, it’s no longer magic to us.

People don’t always share the same type of curiosity, and it’s fine

As science suggests, humans are naturally curious with the exception of those who are deeply depressed or have certain kinds of brain damage. It’s natural for us to be always questioning things. It usually begins with becoming fascinated with things that we don’t understand yet or see for the first time. There’s always a force that pushes you to Google or ask around when you leave it hanging for a while. Just like hobbies and interests, people don’t necessarily share the same type of curiosity, but you can be different types of curious:

1. Specific Curiosity

People who are specific-curious always have the urge to know a particular thing or two in between processes, conversations, or occurrences. They are good observers in the sense that they tend to always seek things between ends. Specific-curious people essentially enjoy solving puzzles and mysteries. Their goal is to see the bigger picture to provide themselves context on what is to be understood.

In the design process, this type of curiosity happens during user interviews. You have theoretical assumptions about what the problem is, but you want to dig deeper in order to know what the real issues are. You’re likely to ask the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’, so you can better understand how to deal with the matter. With the data generated through these interviews, solutions are formulated.

2. Diversive Curiosity

Diversive-curious people are those who like novelty. Simply put, they question things out of boredom. They generally don’t have any specific interests, but they end up becoming invested in a particular discovery.

This happens during idle moments, just like when we’re browsing social media. Online communities may be too crowded to engage and talk to other designers, but when you choose the right ones to follow, you often get something from what they put out. And, that’s how Design Twitter runs. Simple tweets from thought leaders can spark curiosity that you might want to read up on. Here are some designers you may follow:

Usability and Design Strategy

Product Management

Design Research

Visual Design and Creativity

You may also follow the Kalibrr Design (@kalibrrdesign) team on Twitter: Mark Lester Lacsamana (@emkey) , Alexis Collado (@alexiscollado) , and myself (@rielreyes_).

3. Epistemic Curiosity

This type of curiosity is also known as “intellectual curiosity”. People of this type usually start learning things from scratch to understand how these work. Epistemic-curious people like to delve into detail. Some say that it is the evolved phase of diversive curiosity as it requires more effort in research and experimentation. Learning goes beyond seeing things on the surface level.

This is similar to asking the right questions to your target users to create user persona profiles. You start designing not when you boot up Photoshop or your prototyping tool–it begins with knowing who your users are. These user personas have to be crafted properly and have enough details to be used as reference. If not, there’s a big chance that you might fail to provide a solution to a design problem. After all, design backed by data should be your most integral strategy.

4. Perceptual Curiosity

According to astrophysicist Mario Livio, perceptual curiosity is like an itch that needs scratching. This type of curiosity is triggered when people discover or hear about something that surprises, puzzles, or frustrates them. These sensations prompt them to find alternative ways to do things.

This is more evident during the iteration phase of a product. Design evolves because there’s always novelty or new needs to be fulfilled for the users. Teams hold post-launch user testings and read customer feedback to improve the current state of a product. When something doesn’t feel right to the user, the designer must provide an efficient and effective solution.

Ways to enable your inner curious

If you haven’t identified your curiosity type yet, here are some pointers that might help you:

  1. Let yourself wander — Wandering inside your own brain revitalizes your creativity. Observe your surroundings and try to put things together inside your mind–you might end up formulating a good assumption in building solutions.
  2. Always ask questions — Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model can help you gain context with what you are trying to understand. It’s essential for designers to always ask questions because we only know better and gain knowledge when we get answers. You can start with “Why does this…”, and everything will follow.
  3. Have courage to try new things — Have you ever tried cliff diving, investing in a new skill, or getting that product idea to light? There’s fear in doing something you’re not entirely familiar with. But, you don’t have to let fear cripple your curiosity. Put yourself out there, write your own case study, and read more books. If you fail the first time, try again. Besides, failures teach people. You only have to fail fast.

Did This Spark Your Curiosity?

I had a bunch of questions (tons of them, still) when I onboarded with Kalibrr. But as I dive into my role as an Associate Product Designer, I began having a firm grasp on how and why things are done. To quell the fear inside when suggesting ideas, you have to provide yourself with context. As Alexis mentioned in his article, “The goal was never to completely understand an environment’s totality. For our purposes as designers, attempting to grasp as much context as we can is enough. This persistence allows us to design thoughtfully.”

People may say curiosity killed the cat, but what they left out is how satisfaction brought it back.

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Musings about design, strategy, product thinking, boring stuff, and the meaning of life — from your favorite bunch of spirited Product Designers from Kalibrr.

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Riel Reyes

Riel Reyes

Product Designer at Smart Communications. Grammar on average, melodramatic, awkward—but gutsy. Previously @ Kalibrr, Truelogic.

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