Think Like a Designer

Human Centered.








These are all modified terms for The Design Process. I've had the privilege of visiting numerous world-renowned architecture and design firms across the globe, and no matter their design preferences, they all abide by "The Design Process." The office culture of these firms have varied widely—the employee dynamic, dress code, architectural style, vernacular—but at the heart of that culture was some sort of standardized process each designer executed with each and every project.

It is not new information that designers are, like, really cool. No matter the career path, no matter the product, designers possess this effortless confidence that used to terrify me as a student. My first semester of design school was spent practicing words like "juxtaposition" and "gestalt" in front of a mirror, hoping to appear as confident and cultured as my professors whom I could not quite yet look in the eye. Self-assured creatives with a seriously impressive vocabulary... They don't teach that kind of confidence in the classroom.

They do, however, teach the mantras that condition the mind to think like a designer. "Design Thinking" is a structured set of problem-solving steps typically used in any kind of prototyping. It is an extremely effective approach to a creative dilemma–so effective that major corporations like Google and Apple have hired teams of architects and designers to teach their management staff how to "Think Like a Designer." Every studio project I receive is to abide by the Design Process, easily explained and and translated to both clients and prospective employers alike. It is imperative, no matter the project, to be able to explain my work to a universal audience, and formatting my thoughts in this particular order assures a straight-forward dialect, easily comprehensible by my clients as well as my coworkers. Because designers are typically instructed to speak with eloquence and potency, it can be daunting from a client's perspective to keep up with the language. By simplifying the steps of a project, everyone involved has a voice in the conversation. I have heard several different ideations of this thought process, but the structure is always the same. The basic concept:

Define problem. Collect information.

Brainstorm ideas. Develop Solutions.

Feedback. Improve. Build.

This concept can be refined to fit the needs of the company. I have toured a number of design offices, ranging from local businesses to international headquarters, and while visiting I always make note of any recurring slogans or mottos the company upholds. Here are a few I have written in an old sketchbook from my trip to NYC touring major corporations:

Relax, Remake, Simplify, Solve, Tweak.

Identify, Research, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve.

Examine, Understand, Ideate, Experiment, Distill.

Define Goals, Frame Opportunities, Implement Integration Plan.

The beauty of this process is that it can be applied to virtually every project. There is so much merit to be rewarded in creativity, and it brings me joy to see that the education I have invested in is going global. Creativity is so valuable, and I am fortunate to be a part of the generation that is bridging the gap between business and passion.

Not even fifty years ago, interior design was considered a sector of the Home Economic department at my college; the curriculum did not extend far past picking out fabrics and paint swatches. Now, my school is one of the top 5 design colleges in the southeast region, with a long list of highly qualified interior designers, architects, preservationists, landscape architects, and graphic designers to brag on. It is so empowering to see how well society now perceives design and the arts as a whole.

I, like many creatives, have heard my fair share of criticism for my career aspirations. However, in my opinion, creativity is the backbone of humanity. It is something we are inherently born with, but for some reason it is something many people "outgrow" with age, viewing it as something impractical and unrewarding. There has long been an association with laziness tacked on to an aspiring creator (which, from the perspective of a sleep-deprived, carpal-tunnel-developing, 18-credit-hour-taking college student, I cannot understand).

Finally, however, the stereotype correlating creative thinking with lackadaisical day dreaming is slowly but surely dying out, and it is now fair game to revere creatives as intellects as well as curators. Creativity is not something that is acquired, it is something that resides within us all. We are all designers in some form or fashion, and in addition to learning from one another, we should be so proud of our unique ingenuity.

I hope this post inspires the reader to incorporate creative thinking into your every day life, as well as to tap into your own creativity as often as possible. Now get out there and make somethin'!