ART OF GRAPHIX: How to benefit via designer thinking

By Deidre M Bastian

Most people do not really think about design and designers, let alone consider themselves as such. But can teachers, students and business persons of all types learn from designers and their way of thinking?

Can medical doctors, scientists, researchers, engineers and specialists in technical fields benefit in any way by learning how a graphic designer interacts or thinks?

Is there something designers, through training or experience, know what others do not? Well, let’s find out. Below are a few tips I have learned from designers over the years that might answer this question.

Adopt the

beginner’s mind:

As the old saying goes, “in the expert’s mind there are few possibilities, but for one with a beginner’s mind, the world is wide open”.

Designers understand the need to take risks, especially during early investigations of a problem, meaning they are not afraid to break with convention. Good designers are open minded and comfortable with ambiguity early on in a process, as they recognise this is how discoveries are made.

Think communication, not decoration:

Design, even graphic design, is not about beautification. Design is not only aesthetics, even though aesthetics are important. More than anything else, design solves problems or makes the situation a little better than before. It is not art, though there is art in design.

Embrace constraints:

Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies, and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions. In the words of T.S. Elliot: “There’s no point complaining about constraints, such as time, money or tools, etc. Your problem is what it is. The real focus is how can you solve it given the resources and time you have?

Practice restraint:

Anyone can be complicated and add more, but it takes discipline of mind, strength and the will to make hard choices about what to include or exclude. The genius is often in what you omit or leave on the editing floor.

Check your ego

at the door:

It is not about you, it is about them (your audience, customer, patient and student). Look at the problem from their point of view. It may not be easy, but check in with your empathetic side. Empathy, which is an undervalued ‘soft skill’, can be a great component towards understanding a problem.

Focus on the experience of the design:

It is not the thing; it is the experience of the thing. How do people interact with your solution? Remember that much of design has an emotional element. Even though users are aware, never neglect the emotional aspect of your solutions.

Become a master storyteller:

Often, it is not only an attractive design to a problem that is important. Pay attention to the story as well. What is the significance of the solution? Practice illustrating the implication or suggestion of solutions both verbally and visually. Start with the details, and remember the key concept, then illuminate more of the detail.

Obsess about ideas, not tools:

No doubt tools are important and essential, but they are irrelevant as better tools evolve. Some of your greatest tools just might be a simple pencil and sketch pad. Yes, these are often the most useful, especially in the early stages of thinking because they are considered the most direct.

Sharpen your vision and curiosity, and learn from the lessons around you. Good designers are skilled at noticing and observing. They are able to see both the big picture and the details of the world around them.

However, humans are natural pattern seekers. Be mindful of this skill in yourself and in others. Design is a ‘whole brain’ process. Thus designers are creative, practical, rational, analytic, empathetic and passionate. Foster these aptitudes.

Clarified intentions:

Design is about choices, process and intentions; it is not accidental. The end user will usually not notice “the design of it”. It may seem like “it just works”, but let us assume they think about it at all. The ease-of-use (or ease-of-understanding) is not by accident; it is a result of careful choices and decisions.

Learn all the “rules” and know when and why to break them. Over the centuries, those who came before have established useful and necessary guidelines, often called ‘rules or laws’, and it is important to know them. Yet, unlike other kinds of laws, it may be acceptable to break them at times but always know why.

Be mindful that this is not an exhaustive list, as there are many other principles, but these tips may get the mind churning for the time being. Conventional is not the order of your day. Always step out of the box and let your mind run free. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories as opposed to regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.

• NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally trained graphic designer/marketing co-ordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova South Eastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.

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