Design Over-Thinking

by New Idiom

So, I just happened across this article titled, “So you Wanna be a Design Strategist?” by Luke Wroblewski (

What struck me almost immediately was point #2: Don’t over research. Luke writes, “By its very nature, a designer’s job requires using both left and right brain functions. Sometimes over-thinking a solution makes it hard to get people excited about the emotional content of our work.”

Sometimes, in the midst of all the rigor and methods and organizing principles and frameworks, etc., at ID, I think we get lost in 2x2s and other diagrammatic formulas. At least, I do. But we cannot forget the value of the “emotional content of our work.” Having seen some of the presentations from Kim Erwin’s workshop last semester, it became clear that relatable human stories can make for a very compelling experience. We don’t want to lose sight of the people we are designing for, the nuance of their stories, or the reality of their circumstances.

Luke also argues, “You do need to present research that helps your point, but don’t make the mistake of devaluing your gut instincts or hunches.” This became very apparent to me in recent weeks during the prototyping phase of a project. My team came to a pause and pondered what action to take next. Instead of over-thinking it or desperately trying to find a haphazard test subject, we used our guts and just built something. We quickly learned what worked and what didn’t and moved on. We didn’t have to shadow and interview 20 research participants and analyze pages of data. Sometimes, you just need to “make.”

Obviously, there should be room for the rigor and analysis that ID is known for. Luke writes, “Justify decisions with the right kind (and amount) of research… There comes a time when the emotional side of design needs a good helping of ‘reality.’ Designers need to drive research.” But that stuff we already do pretty well. Ultimately, it’s about striking that balance - finding that sweet spot - between methods and emotion, research and doing, thinking and feeling.

So, next time you are formulating a research plan, prototyping a concept, or preparing a deck (or something else, please!!!) for a final presentation, keep in mind that you as a designer have a unique ability to glean and convey meaning. Don’t just think. Feel.