The Three-Letter Word That Can Be Used to Launch Any Design Project
by Rutu Palav
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash
WHERE TO BEGIN…AND WHY?
The first step to getting an answer is asking the question. Where did questions originate from? Why do we ask questions? Why ask questions specifically in Design? Where can these questions take us?
We ask questions to satiate our innate curiosity, necessity, or desire to acquire knowledge about subjects of interest. In this blog, we will explore the question 'Why?' and how it can improve your design.
Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash
WHAT IS A QUESTION?
Ironically, we begin with a question to know about the nature of one. According to Merriam-Webster, a question is “an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge of a subject or point of debate or a proposition to be voted on in a meeting.” Today, when I ask myself, ‘Why?’ I am presented with the opportunity to test my product or design. As we better understand how to leverage the question ‘Why?’, it becomes easy to delve deeper into the complexity of any given subject.
Our ability to ask questions has been embedded in us since childhood. As we become more aware of our surroundings, our curiosity rises. We all have, at some point, encountered that child who constantly asks questions. They might have made you laugh, but these curious questions are part of everyone's childhood.
As I grew up, I continued to ask the same three-letter word — Why? Around the age of three, when ‘WHY?’ entered my vocabulary, my perception of the world shifted. Questions changed per new surroundings, interests, and needs. They went from, ‘Mom, is cheese a vegetable?’ to ‘Ma'am, what is the deadline for this project?’.
Now let’s give it a try. Yes, you! Ask yourself, ’What am I doing right now and why? Why are you reading this blog? Why have you come to specific conclusions? No matter the subject or response, the question ‘Why?’ remains critical in challenging assumptions and finding the truths that will guide you to the solution. You can always ask, ‘Why?’
IN SUPPORT OF DESIGN THINKING
Now, let's expand this further into design thinking and visualization. Exploring ideas and thoughts begins with asking questions. Asking questions is the first step to discovering ideas and linking one to the next. As a designer, I look at how you can answer many questions in one piece of art.
While pursuing my bachelor’s degree in applied arts, I had a professor who encouraged us to question ALL our design decisions. The answer to one question would lead me to another question, which would provide the best solution. He told us to ask the question ‘Why?’ to the concept, visuals, or placements. Then, if you don’t have the correct answer, the purpose behind your idea might be coming from the wrong direction. This process of asking ‘Why?” has made it easy to understand the logic behind my designs and the design around me.
PUTTING ‘WHY?’ TO WORK
Let’s pretend you are working on a logo design for XYZ company. You have used various geometric and organic shapes with different colors and gradients, adding some simple graphic elements and typography. How will you ensure your design concept is successful when you finish the design?
Here is when asking ‘Why?’ comes in handy. Ask yourself: “Why did you use geometric shapes? Why did you use a complementary color scheme? Why a serif typeface and not a sans serif? If you think you have answers to all the questions, then your design/concept is ready to proceed further in the process. Sometimes you might not have the answer, but the fact that you asked the question will help you in trial and error. When we ask ‘Why?’ we can learn if we’re on the right path, need to explore alternative concepts, or take a different direction creatively.
Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash
WHERE TO BEGIN…AND WHY?
A designer needs to understand the requirements of a client or an assigned project to create an appropriate solution. We often take advantage of opportunities to ask additional questions to our clients so that we get to know the core ideas behind that brand.
Example questions include — ‘Why does the client want to include the color blue in their logo?’ or ‘Why is the target audience between the ages of 25 - 45?’ With these questions, you find essential information. When provided with a creative brief, ask ‘Why?’ to different aspects to better understand the client's requirements. This will help you to provide an appropriate design.
This process of self-inquiry takes you two or three leaps ahead when presenting your concepts to clients because these are the questions the client will most likely ask, and you are ready for them.
Here are some ways we frame questions appropriately when communicating with clients. It is far less beneficial to ask, ‘Why don’t you like the design?’ when you can say something more specific such as, ‘Why do you feel these colors don’t work?’, ‘Why do you feel this typeface doesn’t represent the brand image?’ or ‘Why might these images undermine the company's mission?’
THE TIME FOR ‘WHY’
Every designer, at some point, experiences creative blocks. In any design role, we must be attentive and creative and find innovative solutions to problem solve. After your morning coffee, one effective way to attack a roadblock head-on is to start questioning your ideas and taking a few steps back to correct the flaws leading to the block. Answering multiple ‘Why?’ questions will take your design to an all-new level. Inviting your peers to have critique sessions can also be helpful.
As you seek answers to these questions, you open doors to many more exciting topics. This chain will continue to expand with the never-ending possibility of learning new things. Why? Because we have figured out where questions begin. The takeaway here is that questions start with you. Ask them. Challenge yourself. When you have asked enough of the right questions, you will be right where you want to be.
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