Intuition driven design is 10 pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

Intuition driven design is 10 pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

Would you want one person’s intuition driving your product? Sure if it is Steve Jobs and maybe Frank Gehry, but who else? When someone says intuition-driven, the first thing that occurs to me is that they have not given it enough thought. Most good designers I know are deep thinkers. They are sensitive to the constraints they design for and think carefully about the “why.” They do not have a creative spark or come up with fantastic ideas from intuition.

What I have observed is that there are three approaches to design; emotion driven, data driven, and principle driven. Most of the times it is a combination of the three methods. Design is a systematic activity that takes skill and time. There is nothing called design from intuition.

Emotion in design has two parts, ego, and empathy. Ego driven design tends to be luck and very hard to replicate or scale success. Ego does help designers get through when team confidence is waning. My belief is that empathy not ego is the key to good, sustainable design. Empathy comes from listening to the stories and motivations of real people.

Data-driven design is excellent for optimization. Data is also useful when you have all your hypothesis and resulting variables in place. Furthermore, data-driven generative design is very hard because inherently data is “insurance” and focused on why the idea would fail, rather than recognizing the opportunity.

Principles are the fundamentals that help design the right things and ignore the noise. Principles are the team’s articulated collective intuitions. They based on the user, the situation and the moment. Hence it needs to evolve with time. It is hard to end with simple principles that resonate and help ship the right products.

So, next time, think of a bag of shit when you hear intuition driven design. Ask questions to externalize the stories, the data and the collective wisdom behind the design. Ask the “why” and the “who” questions. Without that, all you have is a bag of shit that will stink up the room at some point, even if it does not now 😉

Thanks to Maya Bisineer, Chris Avery and Lindsay Kenzig for reading drafts of this post. Thank you for reading! If you liked this, please click the heart and follow buttons below.