Do Designers Visualize or Articulate?

I have always liked to use the term “Strategy Visualization” as an activity for designers to solidify, by design, a company’s business strategy.
So recently, I was having a chat with my boss about getting some “visualizations” done for a design strategy by our client. My boss correctly pointed out to me that Designers should be “articulating” a strategy rather than “visualizing” one.
Think about it? There is actually a subtle difference between “visualization” and “articulation” and I also agree that “articulation of a strategy” is a much better application of what strategic designers do.
Before we go on, lets take a look at how defines “Visualize” as:

–verb (used with object)
2. to make visual or visible.
3. to form a mental image of.
4. to make perceptible to the mind or imagination.

and “Articulate” as:

–verb (used with object)
11. to give clarity or distinction to: to articulate a shape; to articulate an idea.

Do you see what I mean?
When we say we “visualize” something it seems to imply that designers just dream but do not get real. However if you say designers “articulate”, there is now an element of making things tangible with a level of precision.
This post is not so much an English lesson or a play of words, but it is a nice reminder of what we do.
Have a nice weekend friends!

  • greck

    November 1, 2008 at 8:24 am Reply

    i think we mainly visualize, makes you easy get a good global picture and usually i am more creative in this way this is why the job use to be good (I hope)

  • JIm Rait

    September 24, 2008 at 5:27 pm Reply

    Project Oxygen at MIT is looking at sketching of the future. This article is interesting [rationale_csail_mit_edu] . It talks about sketching and talking.

  • JIm Rait

    September 22, 2008 at 10:51 pm Reply

    I mentioned Bill Buxton above…just thought that this presentation of his is “food for thought” [linkenfuego_wordpress_com]

  • Miguel

    September 20, 2008 at 4:11 am Reply

    This is very interesting way to think about design. The ability to articulate the strategy lends itself for designers to better visualize the result. Both go hand in hand, but should follow a certain flow leading to a more captivating result. After all, design is becoming a more critical factor in influencing the sale a product at the time of purchase. At Schawk, we have found that packaging is an increasingly critical factor in delivering a successful brand — with more than 70% of purchase decisions made today occur while shopping.
    As branders, if we can better articulate what the end result should look like, then the end result is a design that creates an enhanced visual experience allowing a brand to resonate with a consumer. Although design is important, it remains only one factor in the marketing equation. With over 30,000 SKUs introduced each year there is greater pressure for brands to perform, which is causing a shift in how brands are managed. In order for a brand to resonate with consumers, it needs to deliver a compelling and consistent brand experience across all touchpoints

  • Wendren

    September 16, 2008 at 1:18 am Reply

    Great point. I agree with it and like it.

  • MB

    September 15, 2008 at 9:31 pm Reply

    I think this discussion is not about the absence of “visualization” in a designer’s work flow, but rather to be mindful that what we do is simply beyond visualizing for people who do not have the spacial capabilities we do. Simply visualizing all the time means we just replicate ideas as a graphic translator instead of giving a direction or recommendation to move projects forward. If there is no application, then all we have is basically “art”. We as professionals give recommendations to aesthetic direction, mechanical innovation, ergonomics, new market frontiers, and even business innovation.

  • Sudhir B

    September 15, 2008 at 11:50 am Reply

    Vision goes beyond the dimensions of time and space. The visualization happens then and there, but next moment it might not be there.
    Articulation kind of binds the vision to the dimensions of time and space and eventually make it happen in the real world.
    The designers rather visualize and then articulate, than just articulate.

  • DT

    September 15, 2008 at 9:04 am Reply

    Hi DOHboy,
    Your last point is the key to this discussion. Just visualizing implies we are just thinking, dreaming, and/or creating beautiful pictures. That is what an editor friend from a design blog calls “vapor-ware”. The difference here is once it is articulated, you give meaning to the creation, and that is why I rather designers “articulate” rather than sit around in self-gratifying design talk or in our case “visualization”.
    Thanks for point these points out.

  • DOHboy

    September 15, 2008 at 8:55 am Reply

    To be a visionary you must visualize!
    I believe that you must use visionary techniques to design and one persons vision will be different from anothers when only words define the vision. It is only when we materialize the vision are we forced to articulate its details.
    With regards to what your boss would like i think he would like to see a defined, detailed tangeiable direction for your customers design strategy.
    Or perhaps only once a vision is articulated does it really have any meaning?

  • DT

    September 14, 2008 at 11:48 am Reply

    Hi All,
    Thanks for sharing your insights.
    @Raghuraj and @Jacqueline, quite right. They both go hand in hand. The problem is sometimes it one or the other is only used and then the misunderstanding happens especially to those that are not designed trained.
    @Jim, “make tangible” is a good way to put it.

  • JIm Rait

    September 14, 2008 at 4:15 am Reply

    I use the term ‘make tangible’ because it is the job of the receiver to solidify the strategy in their mind. The designer’s job is to create a tangible representation of the elements of the strategy… of course great companies co-create the strategy anyway and then design becomes a social science!

  • Raghuraj Ananthoj

    September 13, 2008 at 4:53 pm Reply

    Hi DT,
    The view of “visualize” and “articulate” go hand in hand when design comes into picture. The visualization of the stratergy is very important to articulate the same. If one fails the other one doesnt survive. Both are more like soul and body of a human being.
    Designers need to understand this part that nothing is irrevelant when coming to the design strategy and only develops with time and experience.

  • Jacqueline

    September 13, 2008 at 2:12 am Reply

    Came across your blog by accident and the question asked if an intriguing one. If I may add my two cents I would think it’s a bit of both.

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