Design Thinking: The 6 Key Factors

Posted on June 27, 2017 | Updated on March 1, 2021

Design thinking analyzes the world a bit differently than how everyone else does. They don’t just see a logo when they look at a company letterhead — they inspect the logo, the colors used and even the negative space around it. They don’t just go to a movie — they observe the angles the director used for different scenes and the emotion those angles create for the viewer.

With that type of intense creative thinking, though, comes both positives and negatives. Here are six key ways designers think that impact their work and the way they view the world around them:

1. Fight Against Boredom

Creative pros mention that when they work in-house, they face obstacles such as tight deadlines, battles with management to take creative risks and lack of diversity in the types of projects they work on. About 37 percent said they grow very discouraged when facing creative slumps.

Those who work for themselves as freelance designers face similar issues, but it is often from limitations their clients place on what they are able to do within the scope of a project. In order to prevent growing bored and losing interest in work, creatives can:

  • Take a break and do something to refill the creative well, such as take a quick walk or study the work of other designers
  • Split up projects and work on various tasks throughout the day

Boredom can creep in when you work on similar projects day in and day out.

2. Overcome Artist Blocks

Courtesy of Giphy

Nearly every type of artist, from writers to painters to designers, experience some form of creative block from time to time. It can be extremely frustrating to hit one of these blocks, but many psychologists and experienced designers suggest just working through them.

What does that look like? For a designer, you should spend part of your day looking at work that inspires you. You should also design, even if it is something simple. Other things that might help include:

  • Listen to music
  • Talk through your block with a trusted colleague

Artistic blocks can be frustrating, but with determination, you can get past them.

3. Get a Design Mindset

Getting in the right frame of mind for design work means being able to solve complex problems for clients and come up with a solution that makes the most sense.

What is different about thinking this way is that you look forward to the solution rather than trying to solve the problem in front of you. If you are working on a marketing campaign for a client, your focus would be on the end goal for the project. This can allow you to work backward and find creative solutions you otherwise wouldn’t think of.

4. Regain Your Creative Confidence

Courtesy of Giphy

As time goes on, it is easy to lose confidence in your ability to design. Clients who are unhappy with your vision, getting input from a big team of people who all have different ideas of how a project should go and even self-doubt can all creep in.

About 75 percent of people think they are not living up to where they could creatively, which means most people doubt their creative abilities. A few ways to regain your confidence include:

  • Make a list of things you’re proud of creatively
  • Mentor someone with less experience

By highlighting what you do best and helping others learn how to repeat your successes, you’ll regain confidence in your abilities.

5. Overcome Fears

One reason some designers get stuck is fear. Fear can take on many forms. You might be afraid of losing a client, losing your job or messing up a big project.

Stanford University works with design students who are trying to develop their creativity. When it’s trying to help students with creativity issues, it first looks at strategies to get past four basic fears:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of others judging you
  • Fear of starting a new thing
  • Fear of not being in control

It teaches students to break big goals into smaller tasks and to celebrate each success along the way.

6. Learn How to Innovate

Thinking like a designer requires the ability to create innovative designs and implement new ideas you’ve never tried before. That is easier said than done. The first step is to study what other cutting-edge designers are doing in your field.

You also must allow enough time to brainstorm and try new things just for fun. It is often when you are trying things out in your spare time that you will learn a new skill you can apply to your work.

The bottom line is that you must love what you do if you want to truly succeed as a designer. Design goes far beyond how many awards you might have won for your work. It is a way of connecting the dots so a project comes together, and it requires thinking outside the box more often than not. If you are an artist at heart, design thinking can be developed over time and can change your whole outlook.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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