Finding five to make ten

Using the power of ten to create design direction

Creating Investment in the Design Process

- 3 minute read

Design by its very nature is extremely subjective. Give five people the same design brief and you’ll get five very different interpretations. So how do we go about meeting a brief and designing something the client not only likes, but is proud to share?

The answer can be found in the design process. As with most big processes a part will focus on communication. By asking the right questions we get the answers that will lead us to a successful outcome. Its our job to talk to our clients and understand their vision for the project. We then have the task of translating that knowledge and desire to create a product, be that a website, app, print or other. Naturally a large part of that product is the visual.

Let’s take a commission to design a website as an example. Before we start designing we’ll often set our clients a little homework. We will ask our clients to give us five likes. Five websites, parts of websites (literally anything that captures the imagination, colour combinations, images, visual styles, micro-interactions, animations), they love, and five that evoke the opposite emotion. Part of the reason design is so subjective is because it evokes feelings, something that will always be a huge part of the challenge of design and a primary driver for why we do what we do.

This is a simple but hugely productive exercise. The two primary outcomes are that it encourages a client to invest in the design process, and it creates a space for rationalising why they like or dislike their findings. This last part of the task is more often the part that clients find less easy.

So what does all of this do for our design processes? Our intended result is for the exercise to provide an initial direction for the design. Think of a compass, you have 360 degrees of possibility, with this exercise we are looking to narrow that range of possibility. It is not about getting a client to create a design, or give us the building blocks to make one, or making the direction so narrow there is little room for exploration. What it is about is gaining a deeper understanding of need through existing design.

This exercise also performs an important secondary function. It sets up critical thinking pathways for the client that can then be applied to the designs we produce. Not all clients are exposed to this kind of thinking regularly, so a little exercise to get the creative juices flowing can now be viewed as a powerful tool.

Design is not only subjective it is iterative. By objectively and critically thinking about a design, its function and its form, we are seeking to arrive at a solution that is truly fit for purpose. By working alongside our clients in this way we are further ensuring investment in the design process, and all the while increasing the chances of having a happy client for a long time to come.


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