Think like an artist to create better designs

June 20, 2017

Artists have the freedom to pursue new ways of creating art in ways that designers don’t. While innovation is encouraged for designers, we need to first focus on creating solutions that feel intuitive for the user based on their past experiences. That doesn’t leave us a lot of room for creating new ways of solving problems.

The past decade has demonstrated the Internet’s ability to grow and change. That’s why it’s so surprising how every new redesign looks just like everything else that’s out there. It doesn’t matter if it’s flat or material design, mobile-first or image-centric, there are clear trends that our design processes force us to follow.

The artists among us

This past week, news broke that Amazon is purchasing Whole Foods. Amazon, by itself, is an extraordinary thing, to say the least. From selling books to selling basically everything, it’s on a path to become the world’s biggest company and making it’s founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Thinking of new ways of creating industry drives Amazon towards even more success. It’s like how an artist views their art.

So what made Jeff act more like an artist than a designer?

“When you think like everybody else thinks, don’t be surprised when you get what everybody else gets. Divergent thinking, and action pays in business and investing. Jeff Bezos clearly demonstrated his early divergent thinking in this presentation. While others viewed the early internet’s boom and bust as akin to the gold rush, Bezos saw the evolution of the electric industry as a better analogy. This mental model provided him the proper framework to be “incredibly optimistic” about the internet’s, and his, future while everyone else was depressed.”

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard said, “The biggest competitive advantage is doing the right thing at the worst time.” Bezos was doing the right thing at the worst time – being incredibly optimistic of the internet’s future and investing accordingly.

The challenge

If we as designers push the boundaries too far, no one will use our products because they don’t understand them. On the other hand, if we don’t push the boundaries enough and play it safe from start to finish, we lose our advantage. With today’s low production costs, there’ll be thousands of copies out the next day that will do exactly what our product does.

The trick is to find the right balance between innovation that’s grounded in psychology and gestures that we are already familiar with. One feature that I always thought was innovative, but felt intuitive enough to quickly get traction was the iPhone’s slide to unlock feature.

It was different enough from the standard pin-code unlocking system while offering a physical movement that was clear and instantly relatable. Respecting the old while introducing the new paid off for Apple and created a feature that was recognizable for many design iterations. So, instead of inventing everything from the start, pay attention physical and psychological patterns of your users, re-use what they are comfortable with, and then place them in new contexts. Like Jeff said, “When you think like everybody else thinks, don’t be surprised when you get what everybody else gets. Divergent thinking, and action, pays in business and investing”.

It’s honest, authentic, and accessible.

I love sharing my experiences working in design and what’ve I’ve learned along the way. Join a community of thousands of designers, developers, and product professionals by signing up to my newsletter!

Not quite ready to sign up? I totally understand! Why not start by reading some of my past issues?

Great! Just “one more thing”...

You need to confirm your email to confirm your subscription.

  1. February, 2024

  2. January, 2024

  3. December, 2023

  4. November, 2023

  5. October, 2023

  6. September, 2023

  7. August, 2023

  8. July, 2023

  9. June, 2023

  10. May, 2023

  11. April, 2023

  12. March, 2023

  13. January, 2023

  14. December, 2022

  15. November, 2022

  16. September, 2022

  17. August, 2022

  18. July, 2022

  19. June, 2022

  20. May, 2022

  21. April, 2022

  22. January, 2022

  23. December, 2021

  24. November, 2021

  25. October, 2021

  26. September, 2021

  27. August, 2021

  28. July, 2021

  29. June, 2021

  30. May, 2021

  31. April, 2021

  32. March, 2021

  33. January, 2021

  34. November, 2020

  35. October, 2020

  36. September, 2020

  37. August, 2020

  38. June, 2020

  39. May, 2020

  40. April, 2020

  41. March, 2020

  42. February, 2020

  43. January, 2020

  44. December, 2019

  45. November, 2019

  46. October, 2019

  47. September, 2019

  48. August, 2019

  49. July, 2019

  50. June, 2019

  51. May, 2019

  52. April, 2019

  53. March, 2019

  54. February, 2019

  55. January, 2019

  56. December, 2018

  57. November, 2018

  58. October, 2018

  59. September, 2018

  60. August, 2018

  61. July, 2018

  62. June, 2018

  63. May, 2018

  64. April, 2018

  65. March, 2018

  66. February, 2018

  67. January, 2018

  68. December, 2017

  69. November, 2017

  70. October, 2017

  71. September, 2017

  72. August, 2017

  73. July, 2017

  74. June, 2017

  75. May, 2017

  76. April, 2017

  77. March, 2017

  78. February, 2017

  79. January, 2017

  80. December, 2016

  81. November, 2016

  82. October, 2016

  83. September, 2016

  84. August, 2016

  85. July, 2016

  86. June, 2016

  87. May, 2016

  88. April, 2016

  89. March, 2016

  90. February, 2016

  91. January, 2016

  92. December, 2015

  93. November, 2015

  94. October, 2015

  95. September, 2015

  96. August, 2015

  97. July, 2015

  98. June, 2015

  99. May, 2015

  100. April, 2015

  101. November, 2014

  102. April, 2013