Problems with being a “problem-solver

A generation of designers is selling themselves short.

An older man and a young man decided to build their house. They set off in search of wood. They find a huge oak in the forest that is large enough to provide all their wood needs. Their axes cannot penetrate the tree’s bark, no matter how hard or fast they swing. They eventually fall to the ground, exhausted.

After a while, the young man speaks. The problem is that this tree’s bark is too strong. He grabs his axe and heads deeper into the forest to find another tree.

The older man remains behind. The older man looks up at the tree; then feels the edge with his thumb. He says that the problem is that his axes are too sharp. He grabs a whetstone and sharpens his knife. The tree is down in no time.

The young man returns empty-handed hours later. He asks, “How did you find this wood?” “I searched the entire forest but couldn’t locate any tree I could cut!”

The old man smiles and says, “While you searched for the right solution to your problem, I found it.”

Good designers solve problems. Don Norman said that great designers also solve problems.

Our tools shape us

There has been a huge increase in design tools in the last few years. Sketch, InVision, Pixate, Marvel, and Zeplin. Tools for visual design, illustration and prototyping. There are many new tools to help you do all these things.

This has been a great thing for design. In the past, interactive prototypes were rare among designers. It’s now a common part of the design process.

There’s another side of the story. The more tools we have, the more the design definition becomes narrower. These tools are beginning to define a profession. The profession of problem solvers.

Design is all about solving problems. What about the design process itself? Analyzing your research How can you build models that help you understand user behaviour? How about all the other events before a pixel appears on the screen?

These tools will be used to finish the design process. Where are the tools to start?

Design can be even more.

You can’t do much if you think like a “problem solver”. You can make your work more interesting if you accept the most difficult part of being a designer.

Before you start looking for solutions:

  1. Ensure you have the right problem.
  2. Keep searching until you find the solution.
  3. Sharpen your axe to start swinging.

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