Designers must Develop Critical Insight


Image source: Insight
One of the key factors I noticed in any successful product and/or design, was that the product’s designer had some kind of critical insight.
It is this “ah-hah!”, this “Wow!”, this “Eureka” moment that can turn any design into a great one. It gives meaning to a product’s form, its function or even its existence. Therefore it is vital that designers develop and enhance their thinking skills to a level that allows them this critical insight.
So if you notice that you are just coasting your design/concept/model along the pathways of a design process it is likely that the design is going nowhere and will end up as an “oh-hum” product very similar to what the majority of the world churns out.
Easier said than done, I know.
So how do we find this critical insight? My suggestions, in no particular order of importance:
1) Anchor your design with a strong user centered research methodology. Have a good understanding of the user’s needs and wants, and a be very very observant.
2) Focus on the type of experience your product is trying to create.
3) Be aware of the natural and synthetic environments your product has to “live” in.
4) Know well and understand the requirements of the product and what it is trying to achieve.
5) Be inspired, not bogged down, by the entire design process.
6) Have a wide range of related and un-related multidisciplinary interests in areas surrounding the design problem.
I just want to end this post with a quick note. A critical insight also has to be meaningful to the context of the product. Otherwise it will just be a gimmick.

9 Comments
  • jS

    September 24, 2008 at 10:45 pm Reply

    fully agreed. i think adding this ingredient to a design process will deliver something that can make a person smile. examples: WD Passport hard drive; work done by Nendo; and Fukasawa.

  • Allan

    September 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm Reply

    That ah-hah moment seems so random and unpredictable. Is there any way to encourage ah-hah?

  • jS

    September 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm Reply

    one way to encourage it, is to always believe in what you design.

  • JIm Rait

    September 25, 2008 at 9:13 pm Reply

    Hypothesis: The moment of insight comes from observing the consumer/user/customer “in the wild” and reflecting on those observations with a mound of other information from various sources. It seems like a WOW moment but that is only the point at which we “see it makes sense”. In fact it is a bit like blowing up a balloon …. it takes a lot of ‘huff and puff’ to inflate it but the moment it bursts is the only thing we remember….
    Insights are the key to upping the likelihood of successful design. The Economist pointed me to an interesting book on Why Things Fail….http://snipurl.com/3u05i [www_economist_com]
    They point out “Mental Inventions” are the worst way to innovate (no insights there!..Segway?). Insightful approaches,

  • Cameron

    September 26, 2008 at 12:26 am Reply

    IDEO’s “the Art of Innovation” book is very helpful on creative brainstorming methods.

  • JIm Rait

    September 26, 2008 at 1:05 am Reply

    This link is interesting….http://snipurl.com/3u7d8 [darmano_typepad_com]

  • niblettes

    October 3, 2008 at 4:41 am Reply

    Hey DT (it has been a while)
    The issue of critical thinking and design is perhaps one of my biggest frustrations with the industry.
    Critical thinking isn’t just a set of simple techniques. It

  • DT

    October 5, 2008 at 4:36 pm Reply

    Hi Niblettes!
    Welcome back! It is very good to hear from you. Hit my point pretty squarely on the head. I’ve noticed this shift also because I find pure styling is getting just too competitive and also people are getting more and more immune to “eye candy”.
    Thanks and good to hear from you. Please keep in touch.

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