Design Thinking or Life Thinking​

For the longest time, I thought design thinking was a way of life. I thought that the same elements that I apply to Design are the same ones that I apply to Life. Turns out design thinking is simply a process. According to Wikipedia, Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts (proposals for new products, buildings, machines, etc.) are developed by designers and/or design teams.

The process is simple: Emphasize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. But I thought there would be more than that. After all, that process is very similar to the Scientific approach of Observation, Research, Hypothesis, Test, Record Data, Conclusion, and Replication. And furthermore, very similar to just thinking in general. I mean if I have a challenge in life that I need to solve, I emphasize it and define it, then I Ideate as many solutions to it, prototype it or test it, and then apply it. I still don’t understand what makes it specifically DESIGN thinking. Maybe it’s not as complicated as I thought. Maybe if you apply that same process to cooking, you can call it Cooking Thinking. Or maybe Cooking can also be Design. In that case, I feel like anything can be Design. I digress.

Whenever I use the term Design thinking, I look at it in a more visual way and comprehensive way.  In Design, there are many principles that make or break the whole concept. These elements of Design are Emphasis, Contrast, Balance, Repetition, Proportion, Movement or Flow, and White space. For me, these can be applied to life as follows: Emphasis (Setting goals), Contrast/Balance (Taking breaks), Repetition (Practice/ Regiment, but also finding Patterns), Proportion (Hierarchy/ Prioritization), Movement/Flow (Motivation/ Drive), White Space (Meditation).

In conclusion, as a process of approaching Design, the steps of “Design Thinking” make perfect sense. Though, I feel like calling it Design Thinking is maybe elitist in a way. It’s like saying only Designers think that way. I believe everyone should think that way. I believe that we need to be more inquisitive at all times. We need to question authority, common sense, and tradition. We need to push beyond standard ways of doing things and thinking about things. We need to step out of our comfort zones. Only then can we actually generate new ideas, and truly empathize with others.

 

 

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Designers are not screwdrivers​.

Often I see designers bending backward for clients, doing whatever it takes to make them happy. They stay up all night and revise the design two hundred times. Frankly, I don’t think that is good design practice. Maybe that’s why there are so many bad designs around us.

Designers are not screwdrivers. They are not simply a tool to be used for any idea the client conjures up. As a designer, you need to be good at what you do. That goes for any profession. That makes you a professional. You know what is good design and what is bad design. It’s not about a gut feeling. There is a science behind it. There is a rationale behind any design. The designer needs to be able to politely explain that to the client. They need to be confident. I’m not saying you have to be egotistical. There is a difference between ego and confidence. The designer needs to inform and educate the clients. It is up to the designer to communicate with the client to come up with the right solution to the client’s problem, and not what the designer thinks the solution is to the problem that the designer thinks the client has. The former takes empathy, transparency, punctuality, and communication. The latter is simply ego driven. Designers need to be competent, do the research, be strategic, communicates often, be respectful, be confident, and be open to feedback.

Imagine going to the doctor and telling them what they need to do to heal you or what they need to prescribe you. Imagine going to the police and telling them to arrest people that you think are criminals. That’s just not realistic. Designers are professionals just like other professionals. The client needs to trust the designer. But designers need to cultivate that trust.

 

Safe and Fearless Cincinnati Bicycling​

I’ve been riding a bike for years. Recently, I got rid of my car, and plan to purchase an electric bike as my daily commuter. I also work in a bike shop, and my apprehension about doing maintenance on bikes is gone.

To bike safely and fearlessly comes from riding confidently and making yourself visible to your 2-ton commuter counterparts. Often times, I see cyclist cower to the right side of the lane, or graze along parked cars hoping not to get clipped by the speedier drivers coming from behind. I think this is the first mistake in trying to be safe.

I believe, that the number one priority is to make yourself visible and be confident in what you are doing. Hold your lane and be visible. It’s when the driver thinks they can pass you by squeezing-by that moments of panic and chaos arise. If it’s clear, and they are very impatient, they will go around you. Also, wear the appropriate gear. Have lights in front, as well as the back. It is very helpful if your back red light flashes. I prefer flashing light because they attract attention. You don’t want to be a stealth rider. Wear a reflective jacket if you can.

The second priority is to make yourself predictable. I believe that many accidents or close calls arise from the driver not knowing your next move. Think about it, car drivers follow the rules of the road, and so should you. You are no longer a pedestrian. That’s why hand signals are crucial. I’m right-handed, but these signals are universal. You never want to signal with your right arm. Hold that arm tight on the handlebars. It will help you hold your balance. Also, if you are leaning to the right of the lane, your left-hand gestures will be more visible.  The easiest and most common is to extend your left arm out as if you are pointing to something far off to the left of you, to tell people that you intend to turn or veer left. If you want to go right, point upwards, breaking your elbow at a 90-degree angle. It’s like shorthand for pointing to the right, with your left arm if you follow a circular and upward motion (like doing jumping jacks). Similarly, if you point down, like your doing the robot, with a 90-degree arm, and pointing your palm back, you are motioning to stop.

Talking about stopping, stop at red lights. I know you just built up all that speed and momentum, but those are the rules of the road. Avoid riding against traffic. Avoid riding in the opposite direction of a one-way road.  Respect drivers and eventually they will respect you. If you come to an empty pocket of parked cars, pull in briefly to let the traffic behind you pass. After all, you’re just a “car” going half or less the speed limit. Don’t be annoying. You don’t want to be break-checked or smashed by road-ragers.

Finally, wear a helmet, and proper shoes. Bring a bottle of water for hydration. And most importantly, have fun.

 

 

Cheap, Fast, Good: pick all.

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We often hear that you can’t produce something cheaply, of good quality, and fast. What if I told you that you can. Like anything else, you simply need to change your outlook.

If you go in with the mindset that you are producing something cheap, you are saying it is of bad quality. Instead, if something is cost-effective, it is in the parameters of the budget allotted for the project. Always understand how much the budget is. Prepare an estimate or a quote, and have it approved before the start of the project. Then, you don’t have to sacrifice value for the cost.

Just like preparing a cost estimate, fashion a time schedule. Find out when the project is due, and aim to do it before the due date. Even if it is by only one day. Make sure the timeline is reasonable. Most people want things done yesterday, but understand that that is impossible. Create milestones to review the project with the client to make sure that what you are doing is on track. Listen to the client and revise accordingly. Agree on a finite amount of revisions, so that you don’t endlessly go back and forth.

Finally, ask questions. Then ask more questions. Then research, research, research! The more you know the better. Once you understand what you are doing, it’s more challenging to sacrifice quality.  We often fail at producing something good, because we don’t understand the parameters.

Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

Feel free to view my work at Gargari Design

 

Transparency, part three of the three pillars of a great business.

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“People with vision master the ability to see through to the heart of issues and investments. They value transparency.” – Robert Kiyosaki.

Transparency here is synonymous with honesty. Honesty foremost with the self and then honesty with others. By honesty and transparency, I mean to say, know what you’re good at and what you can improve upon, and also be honest about the value that you can bring to something or someone else. Not only be honest but also be accountable. Don’t be afraid to say you can’t do something. “Pass the buck”, as we used to say as a barista at Starbucks. Then learn how it’s done right. And only then, do it.

At Gargari Design, I foremost value my clients, and what their needs are. To me, primarily being able to resolve my client’s problem is my first priority. Making money comes later. Not to say that I will work for free, but to emphasize the importance of solving problems first, creating positive relationships, and making a positive impact in society.

I haven’t been the perfect person growing up, I don’t think any of us have. I also can’t change the past, but I can impact the future. What I can do is be my best self now and continuously aim to be a better person, a better brand, and a better business.

For part one, please click here: Empathy.

For part two, please click here: Punctuality.

Click here to go to the Gargari Design website.

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Punctuality, part two of the three pillars of a great business.

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“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” -William Shakespeare.
Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. 15 minutes early, that sounds better.

I used to drive really fast. I would be really angry and edgy behind the wheel. I soon realized that it was because I hated the idea of being late. So I started to manage my time. I even bought a wristwatch and set it 15 minutes early. It has helped me a lot. I definitely have less stress on and off the road.

I believe that punctuality is an essential factor to good business and to life. Your time and other people’s time is valuable and needs to be respected.  Time management is easy when you get the hang of it. I now make a list of all the things that I need to do in a day, in the week, and for the month. I use a calendar and I create a timeline and prioritize each item.

I utilize the same method when dealing with clients. It’s important to me that clients understand exactly what goals I’m working toward, and how long it will take me to accomplish them. I’m very clear about what I will deliver before starting a project.

To make deadlines more manageable, I create milestones. Milestones are like mini-deadlines. These are times when I like to reconvene with the client to make sure everything is on track.

I create agendas for meetings. An agenda is a to-do list. So often we go off course and the meeting turns out an hour longer than expected. It is very important to be focused on the agenda and not to deviate.

Finally, I make sure to take frequent breaks and to meditate once in a while. I realize that I can’t always be on the go, and I need to slow down and relax. It’s a balance!

Click here for part one of the three pillars of a great business: Empathy.

Photo by ALP STUDIO on Unsplash

 

Empathy, part one of the three pillars of​ a ​great business.

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“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” – John Steinbeck

I’m often asked what is the key to great customer service. The answer is simple. It’s putting yourself in their shoes. It’s fundamentally understanding what their problem is. A huge part of being empathetic is listening. Not just nodding your head, and paraphrasing what they say, but actually listening and making eye contact. So many people don’t make eye contact. Eye contact creates trust and connection.

According to Merriam-Webster, Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.

This is not to say that Empathy is based on imagination or clairvoyance. Although that may help. To be empathetic is so much easier if you have a repertoire of different experiences with different people. It helps to travel and to know different languages. It is of great importance to be inclusive with people, and to share their point of views even if you disagree with them, and to understand where they’re coming from. It is important to be open-minded. It is helpful to think outside the box. It is crucial not to exclude people based on their sex, sexuality, age, race, mentality, and social class.

At the end of the day, we’re all human. We all have the same main feelings of fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust, anticipation, acceptance, expectation, courage, shame, confidence, kindness, cruelty, pity, indignation, love, envy, etc. What triggers these emotions, are the situations that we are in. Human nature is not as complicated as people make it sound like, and we are not as different from each other as some claim. We all want to be safe, loved, healthy, and happy.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash