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How good designers think …

An insightful review

How Good Designers Think | Harvard Business Review by Simon Rucker

In this post on the Harvard Business Review blog, an interesting summary of the perspective good designers and breakthrough thinkers bring to a problem. My favorite comment, pointing out how research cannot drive or inspire truly new innovations …

“No one ever asked for Starbucks, or Walkmans or iPods, or the Internet, or texting — they were truly new ideas. And no amount of consumer research gave Steve Jobs the confidence to re-imagine the music industry.”


Insight: They Look at What We Don’t Know

Most insight, because it relies so heavily on asking consumers, only deals with improvements to known/existing products and services (I’d like it bigger, cheaper, quicker, smaller, etc). It rarely deals with the new/never been done before — the unexpected but relevant solution.


Firstly, good designers don’t tend to think about consumers; they think about people and what they want and need. It’s a subtle point, but thinking about people as consumers immediately dehumanizes them and makes it harder to empathize.

Secondly, good designers like observing — really looking at what people do rather than simply relying on what they say they do.

Thirdly, they bring expertise in other categories and industries to bear on problems in others. They pull together threads from different functions, disciplines, fields, and sectors, and integrate them into a new and (the dreaded word) “holistic” understanding.

Fourthly, good designers look at what might all change in the short, medium and long-term, by engaging with the best trends and forecasting intelligence.

And lastly, good designers pressure test their conclusions by consulting with other cultural ‘interpreters’ from a broad range of other disciplines.

Inspiration: They Look for What to Do

Good designers want to solve problems — and this makes them want to transform insights into inspiration.


Firstly, they have the ability to visualize what has never been.

Secondly, good designers live and work in the future most days, immersed in the activity of actively creating and shaping their client’s future visions of new products and services.

Thirdly, they overcome the “not invented here…” syndrome. For new ideas to survive and indeed thrive they have to be successfully embraced by all the relevant (another ghastly word) “stakeholders.”

Action: They Keep Going

When good designers talk about innovation, they mean (and I make no apologies for cribbing Lord Sainsbury’s much-quoted definition), “the successful exploitation of new ideas.” They don’t stop with the invention. They turn their inspirations into reality.

There’s more to read on the actual post …

Learn what sets good designers apart from the rest.we grabbed these points because they … well … get to the point! Working with our clients requires us to push past the expected, to think from the audience’s point of view … ALWAYS … and to bring in the perspective of many industries, different audience groups and numerous objectives. We have also seen over the course of 30+ years of work, what persistence and consistency (keep going) can do for impact and recognition. A lot.

Always a good conversation. We would love to hear your thoughts. What makes a good designer, a good strategist, a valuable thinker when it comes to business and marketing?

And … to see a few examples of our workgood design that really works hard for the client … please visit our website at www.creativeco.com.

About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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