About being sensible

Missives from Hothouse Design

View all blog posts

To think like a designer you need to be more curious

David White – Monday, February 19, 2018   


If you want to be more creative you need to start thinking like a designer. Warning: the people around you might find you annoying because you will be asking a lot of questions.

As a human, our ability to solve problems is dependant on the sum of our experiences because those experiences give us a toolkit to draw on when we need to think laterally – or ever outside the box! The broader those experiences, the more versatile we are likely to be.

Asking questions is a way to access the experience of others - its a short cut that saves us having to learn how to be a surgeon, drive a train, operate an oil rig or groom a wriggly hound. By asking questions we can cherry pick the essential information and leave aside the hard work required to become an expert in their field.

Designers think differently. We know we do and when we catch up with other designers we shake our heads and wonder why others don't ask as many questions as us. Thinking like a designer will bring about entirely different results to what you are used to. It will also bring about entirely different questions than what you are used to.

I think that asking a lot of questions can be a revelatory experience for everyone involved. Many times I have seen a look cross people's face as the “penny drops” when the latest question blows away the murk that had been blocking the real reason / key element / biggest hurdle / biggest ego! And then to project changes – sometimes it dies off, other times it is better defined and more achievable.

Try it for yourself and ask some of these questions next time you have a new project or are asked to do something that doesn't quite make sense to you, but remember that there is an art to asking a lot of questions and you will need practice

  • ask why (a lot – keep asking until you uncover the truth)
  • ask what the outcome is needed for
  • ask how it is going to be used
  • ask who is going to use it
  • ask what context it will be used in
  • ask what the audience already knows
  • ask how the audience will tell others about it
  • ask what tools the audience needs to access the information
  • ask what the audience needs to remember
  • ask what needs to be achieved
  • ask what timeframe is expected for results to appear
  • ask who has to be pleased
  • ask what will please the gatekeeper
  • ask why a whole lot more

If you haven't asked any of these questions lately then maybe you need to add them to your repertoire. At the very least ask them of yourself. Curiosity is a good thing, unless you are a cat!

Further Reading

For more about fluid intelligenc have a look at this post from our blog:
- Fluid intelligence and making diagrams

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

Basics. Know what they are. Get them right. Repeat.

About being sensible.

Reading List

Reading List

Find great books to read in our reading list. Purchase through our links to support the charities we support through our affiliate programs.

Latest book suggestion:

Turn the ship around! by David Marquet


Affliate Programs

Lynda.com and Amazon are the two affiliate programs we are in. We chose these because they are our favourite learning sources. Revenue from these affiliate programs is split between the charities we have as paying clients at the end of each financial year.

Tools we use