Design is Problem Solving

by on 04/17/10 at 9:26 pm

Designers are often hired to design beautiful and attractive experiences. While aesthetics are an important aspect of a designer’s job, there is another aspect that is commonly overlooked. This aspect is problem solving. Designers get paid for their work, and because of that their design should be a solution that helps the client’s business. When it comes to the business of satisfying customers and increasing sales, self-indulgent egocentric design has no place.  In other words, just because your design looks good to you doesn’t make it good. And just because your client likes it also doesn’t make it good.  Because design is a problem solving activity, you can measure how good a design is by how well it solves a particular problem. A design that just looks good, but doesn’t solve the problem it’s supposed to solve is merely eye candy.

As the designer hired, your role is to first work with your client to outline and define specific problems the website has. This should be done before you start designing. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t find what the problem is, and if you don’t define it clearly.  This part will need analysis, evaluation and communication. After the problem has been identified and defined in a clear and specific way, it’s up to the designer to come up with a solution that solves the problem. This is usually not a process that takes only a few hours. This process may take days or weeks depending on the size and size of the problem.  Design itself is not supposed to be a mundane menial task, such as tightening a screw or hammering in a nail. It requires a lot of high-level thinking, such as analysis, synthesis, reflection, discretion, abstraction, concentration, curiosity, experimentation, judgement and economy. This is the reason not all technically skilled designers are good designers. You have to be able to think at a high-level. Good design demands it.  Those designers who offer a one-size-fits-all solution for their clients often lack respect and consideration for their client’s content. This is why you should never take on a project if you’re not passionate about the content. Technical skill is simply not enough. A designer who matches up well with their client is someone who has passion for the content and can think at a high design level.

A designer may have multiple possible solutions for a problem. But out of all the possible solutions, there is usually one that solves the client’s problem the best. The best one should be presented to the client. However, if you’re dealing with such a problem where more than one solution may equally be as effective, then present all of them. This, however, rarely occurs as there is almost always one solution that stands out as the best. A designer who presents all of their possible solutions to the client does so out of uncertainty, insecurity, lack of understanding of the problem and lack of understanding of the solution. A client who demands multiple solutions from the designer also does so out of those same reasons.

One of the biggest issues that hinders the designer from solving design problems effectively is a client who asserts their personal tastes and preferences. The client should not do this, nor should the designer. Doing so will result in a subjective mess that everyone might end up liking, but will ultimately fail to get results in the business world.  At the end of the day, the solution must get results. A smart business person will choose the design that works best in bringing in business regardless of whether it suits his taste or not. Subjective decision-making is the culprit of mediocre design today. True design excellence has no room for egocentric or self-indulgent clients or designers. In a world where design excellence dominates, the people in charge would listen carefully, ask questions and seek to understand, and not constantly talk, make assumptions and pontificate about design. That world does not exist today. But for there to be any glimmer of hope of its existence, it has to start with oneself.


Design is Problem Solving Design is Problem Solving

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

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