Think like a designer
When we use the term ‘design thinking,’ remarks occur such as, “as if designers don’t think” or “design is more about doing.” Design is thinking and doing. Though, in my opinion, it is thinking in the first place. Design is any intentional interaction to change something for the better, or as Herbert Simon puts it: “any course of action aimed to change existing situations into preferred ones’. That means that design is a cognitive process, a series of activities to make something better, whether that is a more ergonomic chair or a better policy to handle data in the public space.
The act of designing is simplifying things and solving problems or addressing needs. You usually can’t solve multiple issues at once, nor can you fulfill different needs at the same time. Any successful company starts by focusing on a single problem, whether that is Google or Airbnb. That single problem we can call the ‘crucial factor,’ To solve that problem, we have to get rid of all dominant ideas, ideas that withhold us from achieving our goal. Those dominant ideas are ideas that we think are part of the problem or part of the solution, but are fixed in our mind and do not help us to see clearly. When we don’t focus on that crucial factor, we get interference with different variables and are not able to solve anything anymore.
For example, if Airbnb hadn’t focused solely on the need of people looking for a bed for the night, it might have been a traditional hospitality business, not able to scale at the same pace because of all obsolete activities such as buying and maintaining real estate.
Act as a writer
Thinking like a designer is an essential step to need-finding and problem-solving. But from writers, we can learn two important things that will lead us faster to better results. The first thing is to just write, or test in the case of design.
Write for the sake of writing, design for the sake of designing.
When writing, it makes sense to write, instead of thinking about the perfect sentences to express something. The more you write, the bigger the chance you get to that ultimate sentence. It is no different with design, The more we iterate, the more opportunities we have to come up with the best product, the most clarifying poster, or the most effective policies.
Design is similar to writing. There are many ways to write a story. There are even so many ways to solve a problem. What the best manner is, is something we have to test and test again. Gathering ideas and testing them will help us move forward, more than trying to find the ultimate way to fulfill a need. Do, decide, delete.
Write without fear, edit without mercy.
What we also can learn from writers is the way they let in different perspectives in a story. Writers often use the technique of telling the same story multiple times from the point of view of ever again, another protagonist.
In my aspiration to study the northern Italian literature from the second half of the 20th century, I was recently reading ‘Fuoco grande,’ a novel by Cesare Pavese and Bianca Garufi. The two protagonists, he and she, are telling the same summer from their perspective, the facts are the same, but seen through different eyes. In this case, it is probably even autobiographical.
Translated to design, it is nothing else than looking at a problem from the perspective of the different stakeholders or personae. Writing, or at least articulating, use cases during the design process is an excellent manner to look at all those different points of view. You can’t do any better than bringing all those stakeholders at the same table for an ideation workshop or a design sprint. But if that is not possible, awaken the Hemingway in you and start writing those cases yourself, from the different angles, the best your imagination lets you.
Writing and designing are very similar activities. Both activities need thinking and doing. For both, it is essential to try and throw away. Look at yourself as a writer and start filling the blank paper, next time you got stuck in a design process.
Think like a designer:
- Frame the need or problem, the one single you want to handle;
- Gather as many ideas as possible, worthless or not, try to get all stakeholders involved;
Act as a writer:
- Tell the story from all different perspectives;
- Write without fear, edit without mercy.