Thinking Like a Designer

Of all the dictionary definitions for “design,” the following is my favorite:


The discipline of design remains highly rarefied and largely misunderstood. Chances are that if you were to tell people you were a designer, they'd probably ask you about the color of their drapes, wall paint, and so forth. Identifying yourself as a designer will compel them to expect an immediate answer, like “I see pink over there.” However, this is one of the most destructive myths about the practice of design: that it's a wholly artistic and inspirational discipline. The effect of this myth is twofold: It discourages individuals from approaching design tasks, and it prompts them to take any opinions they form personally, which makes the process of brainstorming and revision difficult. Design teachers often lament that though we spend years in school learning written communication, most Americans graduate college without a day of training in how to communicate visually.

The discipline of design is part science, part art. Much of visual communication is easier to objectively measure and qualify than similar types of written communication. Good design is self-evident: the item in question feels right. Author Donald Norman uses the example of sewing scissors in his seminal book, The Design of Everyday Things: Your hands just slip into the exact right position when you pick ...

Get Starting a Tech Business: A Practical Guide for Anyone Creating or Designing Applications or Software now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.