The Design Process – Find the “Why”

Curiosity is a powerful tool in a designer’s arsenal. Asking questions during the design process can help assess a situation and gather valuable information from the right sources. It can help foster innovation, help different teams and departments in an organization align their goals, and also be the spark that ignites the flame of creativity.

For a designer, it is essential to ask questions that everyone understands. These questions must come from genuine curiosity. Before a designer can come up with the best design solution, they must have the desire to explore the product in depth. This will not only facilitate their workflow towards the end goal, but also ensure that they are on the right track.

Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” discusses this in detail. He mentions how great leaders have the ability to inspire people to take action by asking the right questions. To create a solution, you have to be able to ask yourself the right question. Without the right question, they will never be able to come up with the right solution. The answer will always be wrong no matter how hard they work.

Every designer faces a set of challenges every day. These challenges force them to find design solutions capable of circumventing commercial and technical constraints while meeting user needs. If time is of the essence, the need to find solutions quickly should not prevent designers from fully understanding the heart of the problem. The investigative phase where they find out the “Why” should not be ignored at all costs. It is an integral part of the design-thinking process. This is where the right questions should be asked so that a designer can tackle the design problem before actually starting to design it. These questions can trigger the desire to explore and let your creativity run wild.

A designer’s brain is programmed to immediately find a good enough solution and act accordingly when faced with similar challenges. But those who want to deliver successful products and services must look from a unique perspective every time in order to better understand the challenge and find valuable information.

There’s a reason, however, that designers sometimes miss this crucial step. They typically operate in fast paced environments that need them to provide quick solutions. In such situations, questions such as “What is the need to fix this problem?” Or “When did you find out about this problem?” Which are questions that can help them better understand underlying causes and needs, are seen as barriers that make things time consuming.

This can be correct sometimes. But designers also need to be able to help teams set direction to keep them from working on the wrong issues, regardless of the schedule.

Just as detectives ask the right questions to find clues and connect the dots to solve cases, so can designers.

In my career, I have seen many other factors, besides time, which also prevent designers from asking questions. Some are afraid of being labeled as boring. When a new idea or solution is presented to the team, questions that may reveal weaknesses can make the people who came up with the idea uncomfortable. When someone probes and pokes holes in a solution that you think is perfect, it can lead to a certain level of awkwardness that many designers try to avoid.

Many people, including designers, view design as work at the execution level. As and when decisions are finalized by the sales and marketing teams, or the technology teams, while the designers only have to develop the final product. But this is not at all true. A good designer can use their questions to expose the value of a product or solution at a strategic level by looking at it from a user’s perspective.

Some designers also avoid asking questions because they lack confidence and training. As with everything in life, asking the right questions in a way that reflects your willingness to collaborate and find a better solution is all about practice. You get better as you do more. So start today and every time you start a new project start with the why.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we assume no responsibility for them.)

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Abdul J. Gaspar