Time flies. It almost seems like yesterday that I was walking in through the gates of college for the very first time. I vividly recall the eagerness to learn something new and meet new people as I was taking my first few baby steps into this exciting world of design.
Fast forward 4 years and here I am today, standing with a bag full of memories on the brink of graduation. Just as excited for what is to come but taking a moment to reflect upon some of the learnings which I will carry with me, on my journey ahead.
So, ‘What did I learn from 4 years of design education?’ (No points for guessing): Design skills, tools & processes (Duh, Obviously). But hold on, there are many more implicit learnings and this blog is an attempt to share with you, the top 3 of those implicit learnings…
1. To effectively communicate your design
Just designing is NOT enough, it is a job half done. You should be able to effectively present your design solution to all the stakeholders involved, be it your team, the client, the users or your college faculty. The goal is to get them involved & keep them engaged until they eventually care about what you have done.
While I am far from mastering it, one way to present a design is to tell a story. Set the plot by defining the problem. Then introduce the protagonist: your user persona and establish his/her challenge. Then continue the story through what worked and what didn’t until you reach the climax: your final design solution! Will the protagonist successfully overcome the challenge in the end!? Perhaps let your audience decide that… [Through their feedback :)]
2. To be able to answer the question: “Why?”
Back in my first year of college, one day I had my jury of the ‘Craft & Design Studies’ module and I had created a 3D model as a part of an assignment. I went to the faculty panel & started presenting my work. Everything was going fine until one of our professors asked me a rather simple question, “Why have you used the colour Blue?”. To which I ended up answering, “Umm I don’t know, because it looks good!?”. Initially, I thought it was a trick question and was irrelevant to a mere craft assignment but that small incident got me thinking until I realized it was very much a valid question.
Perhaps every element in a design MUST have a reason for why it is the way it is. I guess that’s what makes Design different from Art. As a designer, you create for your users, not for yourself. Therefore, every design decision must be because your users “feel so” or “think so” and not because you do.
The “Why” even stands strong in questioning the techniques used in the design process. For Example, “Why do the User survey when you need qualitative data?”; “Why Mind-Map? Can you use a different ideation technique instead?”. Design Process is not a checklist. Sure, the broad phases in it may be fixed but all the different tools & techniques are not. They can change given the context. Having an answer to “Why?” ensures you have an objective and aren’t doing something merely for the sake of it.
3. To Not jump into the solution too early
I think as Product/ UX designers, we have a tendency to parallelly think of solutions while we are still in the initial stage of defining the problem. We start visualizing how the solution will be, what will it do, what will it look like, etc. while we don’t even know “Whom we are designing for?”.
The subconscious bias builds up faster than you can imagine. It limits your thinking and narrows your exploration later in the process. I have myself been there, done that and learnt it the hard way.
This tendency to jump into solutions can evolve into its ultimate form when you end up starting the design process with a “cool idea” and subconsciously back-track your way to create a problem statement (quite literally) & validate your idea with the user research! Sounds like a perfect recipe to design a product which people can’t use or don’t need, isn’t it?
Not jumping into the solution too early has been a crucial learning for me. It has taught me to keep both, my personal bias & ego away from what I design and trust the process.
Thanks for reading! Do share your thoughts!?