Mindsets to become a successful designer

Sep 7, 2022

Human-centered design is as much about the head, as it is about the hands. The mindsets you will find in this article explore and uncover the philosophy behind an approach to creative problem solving. You will discover that how you think about design, directly affects if you'll come up with innovative, impactful solutions.

1. Learn from failure

Tim Brown – CEO, IDEO

"Don't think of it as failure, think of it as designing experiments through which you’re going to learn." Failure is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. As we seek to solve big problems, we’re bound to fail. But if we adopt the right mindset, we’ll inevitably learn something from that failure.

2. Empathy is key

Emily Kolawole – Editor-in-Residence, Stanford University d.school

"I can’t come up with any new ideas if all I do is exist in my own life." Design is premised on empathy, on the idea that the people you’re designing for, are your roadmap to innovative solutions. All you have to do empathize, understand them, and bring them along with you in the design process. Empathizing with the people you’re designing for, is the best route to truly grasping the context and complexities of their lives.

3. Creative Confidence

David Kelley – Founder, IDEO

"Creative confidence is the notion that you have big ideas, and that you have the ability to act on them." All it takes to unlock your potential as a dynamic problem solver is the creative confidence. Creative confidence is the belief that you can and will come up with creative solutions to big problems and the confidence that all it takes is rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

4. Optimism

John Bielenberg – Founder, Future Partners

"Optimism is the thing that drives you forward." Always believe it is possible. Optimism is the embrace of possibility, the idea that even if we don’t know the answer, its out there and we can find it. Constraints are inevitable, and often designers are pushed toward unexpected solutions. It is our core belief that shows just how deeply optimistic designers are: Every problem is solvable.

5. Make it

Krista Donaldson – CEO, D-Rev

"You’re taking risk out of the process by making something simple first. And you always learn lessons from it." It doesn’t matter what you use, or how beautiful the result is, the goal is always to convey an idea, share it, and learn how to make improvements. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done.

6. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Gaby Brink – Founder, Tomorrow Partners

"What an iterative approach affords us is that we gain validation along the way...because we’re hearing from the people we’re actually designing for." By continually iterating, refining, and improving our work we put ourselves in a place where we’ll have more ideas, try a variety of approaches, unlock our creativity, and arrive more quickly at successful solutions.

7. Embrace ambiguity

Patrice Martin – Creative Director and Co-Lead, IDEO.org

"We may not know what that answer is, but we know that we have to give ourselves permission to explore." Designers always start from the place of not knowing the answer to the problem they’re looking to solve. And though that’s not particularly comfortable, it allows us to open up creatively, to pursue lots of different ideas, and to arrive at unexpected solutions.

What do you think about the mindsets of these designers? We must start taking inspiration from the best and adopt their mindsets to our daily life to improve and grow our professional careers.

If you want more information and material regarding these mindsets, visit the Design Kit site by IDEO.

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