northtemple journal of design  ~  November Issue

The Designer's Sixth Sense

Exploring the inner workings of a designer’s mind is no picnic. Stop over-analyzing and go with your gut.

posted by Jason Lynes on Monday, Nov 10, 2008
tagged with design, intuition, experience, expertise


What do you do when you have a problem like I do? My gut usually tells me not to trust it.

I think this topic of intuition is important, and is often overlooked. I think where an experienced designer will always have the edge is the ability to convince others (clients and such) that his/her intuition is right. This is going to be much easier for the proven and tested professional than it is for the beginner.

comment by John Dilworth 6 hours later

Smooth article Jason. You are the smooth criminal.

comment by Craig Hobson 14 hours later

As a designer, this message resonates positively with me. I am sure it would resonate just as negatively with many clients.

The problem with intuition is also why it is so powerful: it can’t be easily explained. It’s just a blast of experiential-based truth.

Rarely, if ever, has a client of mine ever been satisfied with accepting a decision based solely on my intuition. Like John said, there needs to be a secondary process of at least attempting to figure out why you got such specific impressions and explaining them in a logical (or persuasive) manner. Maybe Steve Jobs can get away with executing design based on intuition, but clients know that Steves are far and few between in this world.

So, yeah. Intuition rocks. I love it. I’m glad I have it. Unfortunately, I think it’s a trait that is really only revered by designers and pretty mistrusted by paying clients. :/ They need more than a feeling.

comment by Jared Christensen 17 hours later

John and Jared, thanks for the additional insight.

I agree the designer must always be able to explain why he’s done something. He’s got to sell it a dozen times before it will ever see light. I think this comes with the realization of a design solution. When I can connect to a problem and realize the solution using my super powers of intuition, it doesn’t usually come to me in pixels and specifics. I have to take the emotion from my mental image and translate it into something real, and this is where sound design principles, which any designer should be able to explain, come in handy.

There are a thousand different takes on any one design problem. Taking the one you know is right, and selling your clients on it is an entirely different skill, and certainly worthy of its own article. Using intuition or “it just came to me” as an excuse for what you did is hardly a good idea, and is sure to alienate the people around you who aren’t used to this creative process.

comment by Jason Lynes about a day later

Jason, I think the point is, and you communicate this in your article, is that the solution, and the reasoning for the solution often come independent of one another. Usually in that order, too.

comment by Pete Lasko 3 days later

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