Thinking Like a Designer
We're gonna talk about thinking like a designer and it goes without saying but the most important tool is your mind. You know what, Photoshop could be here in 10 years, maybe it's not but what you'll carry with you is your mind and how you see the world. And design always begins with one question. And that question is what if? I put the dots for dramatic effect. What if? And let's just take a moment to think about that. What if the presidential ballot of 2000 looked different, right? What if there was a new way to design a ballot all together because design begins with curiosity. It's about doubting the defaults so that you can see what you see everyday with fresh eyes. And curiosity is so important because curiosity is the birthplace of ideas. And ideas are the birthplace of concepts. And concept is the birthplace of strong design. No amount of beautiful typography, a great layout or beautiful colors, none of it matters if you don't have anything to say. It goes back to what we talked...
about earlier, you need the what that you say and you need the how that you say it, and you need both at all times. And what if for something that a question that's just two words, it's so profound because what if challenges us to see the world anew, but not just to see it anew, it also has to mean that we believe that world that we live in, the things that we see everyday can actually be different, and that takes courage. A good way to talk about this is learning how to ride a bike. It's so easy to get used to the things that we see everyday. For example, the person the designed the ballot for Palm Beach, Florida, he was used to the ballot, he or she right? He probably saw it thousands of times and to him or her it made total sense, right? But a designer has to see things with fresh eyes as if it's the first time you've seen it. That's the only way you can gut check if people will actually understand what you're trying to say. But this gets hard because of something called habituation. And so let's go back to riding the bike. The first time you learn how to ride a bike, you're adjusting the seat, your palms are sweaty, you get on, you're like should I put my right leg over first? Should I put my left leg over first? I don't know what to do, and you're so focused. Am I turning the handle bar too fast, too slow? How quickly should I push the brakes? Your mind is totally focused, and then you know what happens? You get used to it. You stop noticing all of these things. Before you know it, you hop on that bike, you're cruisin' down the street with your friends, talking about what you wanna have for dinner and none of the things that you thought about, you think about anymore. And this is such a normal human response. Why? 'Cause we have limited brain power, we really do, and we need to free space to learn new things. So when you learn how to ride a bike, your brain files that away so that you don't have to think about it anymore. 'Cause if you were to think about every thing that goes into riding a bike, every single time you would be completely exhausted. And sometimes habituation can be a good thing because it does free up space for you to learn new things. But it can also be bad. And it can be bad especially for a designer. And that's because habituation stops us from noticing things. And I know it goes without saying but it's like, as a designer you have to notice things. You have to see the world with fresh eyes. And this becomes especially problematic if habituation prevents us from fixing problems because we can't fix problems we can't see. Let's think about the presidential ballot. We can't fix problems we can't see. As Steve Jobs once said, the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner. If freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. So let's backtrack, everybody knows who Steve Jobs is. He was fired from his own company in 1985. Can you imagine how much that sucks. At 21, you come up with the brilliant idea. At 23, you're a millionaire and you're the talk of Silicon Valley. At 30, you're fired from your own company that you built with your own sweat, blood, and tears. And you know what, nobody would have blamed him if he folded his cards in, took his millions of dollars and bought a Caribbean island and called it a day. But instead he took this as inspiration. And after he was fired and then later rejoined the company, he invented the iPod, and the iPhone, and the iPad. It was the most creative time of his life. And this is because he broke habituation. He was so set when he was working in his company on what a computer could be, how we should interact with technology. He never stopped to say could we do something that nobody has ever done before? For example, play music on something the size of a deck of cards. He really took this power and then translated it to change the world. And my question for you is how can you see the world in a new way? And then how can you see that world in a new way? Identify things that could be better or communicate more clearly. And then what can you do from there? So who is this guy on screen? His name is Robert Recorde and he was a Welsh mathematician from the 1500's. He's probably the only Welsh mathematician I will ever know of, but he is one of my heroes. And it's because he dared to ask a question what if? So imagine you're a mathematician, think how many times you have to write again, and again, and again, something plus something is equal to. How annoying would that be? But more than annoying, right? It doesn't communicate in other languages, right? It's not universal. And so but this is what everyone had been doing for hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of years. And he had the mind of a beginner. And he took a step back and asked himself, can I communicate this better? Like this is radical, like the amount of habituation you have to break to even ask this question is pretty impressive. And you know what, he decided there's a better way to communicate this exact same message. And he drew two equal distant lines stacked on top of each other and he said I believe these two lines means is equal to. I mean, how brilliant is that? He could have been a communication designer. I know he was a brilliant mathematician, but he was also a communication designer. He asked what if and he actually changed the way we communicate mathematical principals.