5 Design Decision Conversations: Design With Science

June 4, 2015

6:00 pm

How do you make and communicate why you are making your design decisions? According to author Joe Leech, it’s research, design, and design strategy, in equal measure. At Future Insights Live in Las Vegas, Leech presented “How to Design With Science” as designers filled the room to understand how psychology and data can make you a more successful designer, without destroying the magic.

Get your designs chosen and built by employing these 5 design decision conversations:

Talk stories

Use photographs and get feedback from users in order to tell their story. If design is empathy, then the designer must advocate for the user. For example, Leech shared how he was able to tell an important story based on a picture of woman using a train station kiosk.

The picture of a woman holding a phone and carrying bags at a train station was able to help him advocate his design and remind the project owners that folks don’t often have their hands free while commuting and traveling. Thus, using the phone or just inserting the credit card used to reserve train tickets could free folks up from having to interact with a touch-screen kiosk.

Talk business

Understanding your client’s or employer’s business will tell you how they will evaluate the designs you create, and how successful the designs will be. There are essentially two basic types of business models: Cost Driven and Value Driven. If you imagine a continuum between these two different types, you can probably imagine where on that line your client or employer sits.

For a value driven business, the design focus should be centered on engaging on an emotional level with the user. For cost driven businesses, removing friction points in the design to keep users engaged is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind. Leech wrote an in-depth blog post about this on his website, and I recommend you check it out.

Talk Data

Measure 2 to 3 things. Data shows confidence in the design, but don’t let it dictate design. Organizations often measure too much, or not enough. Find balance. There will be teams or businesses that get so caught up in data that they can become paralyzed by it. To be a good designer, you need to be able to comfortably talk about data, otherwise, you will have the data thrown back at you to discount or invalidate your work. When you are choosing your 2 or 3 metrics to measure, consider the following things:

1. Timescale – How often do you look at that data. Monthly? Daily? Weekly?
2. Benchmark – What are the minimum and maximum numbers you are looking for?
3. Reason to be reported – What happens in the organization when a number gets too high or too low?
4. Associated action – What will you do when a certain threshold is crossed?

Talk Theory

There are a lot of myths. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Remember the story of famous market researcher James Vicary? In 1957, he utilized subliminal messaging to flash “Hungry? Eat popcorn!” and “Thirsty? Drink Coke!” as single frames during a movie showing. Vicary claimed huge increases in the purchases of these items when the ads were shown. These claims enabled his failing advertisement company to get back in the black. Vicary, on his death bed, admitted he falsified the numbers, but it still is believed by many that subliminal messaging does work.

Leech warns designers: subliminal advertising really isn’t effective. Talk theory, but be careful to use good science and psychology. He suggests a site called Cognitive Lode that distills behavioral economics and consumer psychology into little gems that you can add to the conversation you are having with the project owners. Leech cautions to “have strong ideas, weakly held.” Some strategies change over time, so be prepared to be proven wrong.

Talk objectively

“I feel” isn’t an objective opener. It actually opens us up to the next response: “Well, I feel…” You should avoid allowing someone to disagree in this manner. Having a strong message; using stories, data, and theory; is a far better strategy to describe the solution to the problem you are trying to solve.

Using these 5 strategies to talk about your designs will help you advocate for your designs and your design decisions.

Image Credit: Flickr/sharyn morrow

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Software developer since 1998. Member of #VegasTech and founder of Las Vegas based startup WorkingOn. Follow him on Twitter

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