Gut Instincts

Posted on April 20, 2010.

Much is said about education, experience and domain knowledge when discussing the potential quality of a design.  If the designer has the right degrees, a solid cross-section of experience and deep industry knowledge the assumption is that the design will be great. There’s a fourth component though: gut.

What is gut? It’s talent, emotion, intuition, a feeling, a belief that a design direction is the right one to go in. It can’t be quantified and it can’t be rationalized and this scares us designers. It makes us perceive gut as the black sheep of design tactics.

“Why did you put the form fields in this order and then place the button left-aligned?”

“What makes this flow better than the one we currently have on our site?”

To a certain extent you can answer these questions (and others like them) with quantified insights gleaned from proper research, your experience and the domain expertise that comes from working in a particular industry. At a certain point though, these rationalizations run out leaving some skeptics in the room and you, the designer, with only one answer left — it was a gut decision.

We fear defending our work with this tactic because it’s “fuzzy” and nebulous. In a sense we’re asking our clients to trust us at this point. And I say, that’s ok. You are being hired because you possess these gut instincts. Because, in the past, they’ve propelled your designs to success and because they are an innate part of your design process.

Embrace your gut instincts. Be proud that you have this tool at your disposal and use it to defend your work. Let confidence in your design drive the public outing of your gut instincts. Ultimately, you will build trust and confidence in your work that quantifiable tactics could never earn.


3 thoughts on “Gut Instincts

  1. Wish clients thought like this! Sometimes your gut feeling IS backed by scientific facts about perception…never thought I'd mention Rudolf Arnheim outside of design school but he explains it:

  2. Nice post. My instincts about people are usually pretty good and it’s saved me from a lot of issues. Including even some situations in which I was in danger of something bad happening.

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