5 Tips to Incorporate Critical Thinking for Designers

While designing, it is crucial to question the ideas and assumptions to identify the gaps in reasoning. This blog will help designers gain the basics of critical thinking to decide whether their concepts and conclusions draw a realistic picture of the user experience.

5 Tips to Incorporate Critical Thinking for Designers

A designer creates a primary design model on the platform, be it a motion design, an animation, or a UI or UX design. As a designer, every single day, you are surrounded by a plethora of choices, design problems to rectify, and ideas to evaluate. The internal and external factors such as biases, information, and prejudices affect these areas of design. These factors play a role while making the right decision or finding the proper solution that may lead to misleading choices. Critical thinking offers an alternative way to improve our thinking process that affects the outcome of our decision.

This article will discuss some handy tips for designers to incorporate critical thinking in their design. But before that, first, let us introduce you to what critical thinking is.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a directed, monitored, and corrective way of thinking to improve how we communicate ideas and face problems.

In the designing context, critical thinking is a method for evaluating and analyzing problems, ideas, and different situations to build a clear understanding before reaching the optimal solution. This thinking style is popularly used in design to create an objective perception of different design projects.

critical thinking is a method to build a clear understanding before reaching the optimal solution

What are the principles of critical thinking?

The below principles were introduced to serve as guidelines for critical thinking before taking further steps:

  • Collect all the necessary information about the design problem
  • Understand and define the terms for the design problem
  • Interrogate the methods used for collecting the information and the sources of facts
  • Understand the design assumptions and biases
  • Look at the bigger picture
  • Examine the causes and effects

The above principles clear the biases and define the situation clearly. It also ensures the source of the collected data and the methods for collecting it are free from biases and mistakes so that you can focus on the problem without considering any external factors.

5 tips to incorporate critical thinking in your design

Now that we've had a glimpse of what critical thinking is and its principles that you should follow, let us discuss the crux of this article: the tips for incorporating critical thinking in your design.

Understand the stages of critical thinking

The process of critical thinking has three stages to go through: Observe, Question, and Answer. We would explore how to address the design problems with critical thinking, with the stages described below:

Stages of Critical Thinking - Observe, Question, Answer
  1. Observe: It all starts by observing. Observe the individual parts of someone's work and think about those parts and how they contribute to the whole.
  2. Question: Based on the parts you have observed, have a list of questions ready. These can be about working on the design, the activities happening in the different parts, and their contribution to the end design.
  3. Answer: Now, after questioning with so many observations, it is time to think of the answers to the questions you have. Keep in mind that it is not important to be correct but the way you interpret the answers.

Every observation teaches how to draw attention to something in a design. With a deeper understanding, you get to know the design concepts of:

  • Contrast
  • Direction and direction flow
  • Dominance
  • Focal points
  • Hierarchy
  • Recurrence
  • Visual weight balance

Thinking critically about several designs will eventually improve your skill.

Design critiques

A design critique is a way to analyze a design and give feedback on it satisfying the objectives, improving and bringing expert insight into brands, interfaces, prototypes, services, user journeys, or technical difficulties while implementing a design. It usually helps in a group of 3 to 7 people, including motion, animation, or UI/UX designers, developers, marketers, or analysts.

Design critique manifests the ultimate goal of improving a design. Using this, you can focus on your branding elements, concepts, or other feasibilities.

A design critique is a way to analyze a design and give feedback

Critical thinking can be used in the design critiques where people from forums and design communities are involved. A critique must be perceived as an opportunity to think critically and understand something about design.

After observing the critiques, you can:

  • Make a note of those observations
  • Choose any three things you like and determine how they work in the design
  • Share three things that need improvement

Linking theory to practice

Critical thinking involves both practical and theoretical knowledge. It includes the actual practice and how it works with the theory. Critical thinking helps in taking theoretical knowledge and how you could apply it practically to your design.

Critical thinking involves both practical and theoretical knowledge

Without theoretical knowledge, any practical implementation would take longer, as it will pass through so many steps of trials and errors. Unless you have worked with the various designing concepts and made them effective with your theoretical knowledge, the theory will be meaningless. Using critical thinking to amalgamate both theory and practical design experience makes you a better designer and offers you the scope to improve.

It can take time and practice to connect the dots, but in the end, you will find yourself improving on the steps with the concepts understood to make your design work better for you.

Interpret your experiences

As a designer practicing for some time, you are likely to have gained most of the design knowledge and necessary skills. However, there is always a scope of growth if you learn from the success and failures. Critical analysis, therefore, is essential for interpreting your professional experiences for you to learn from them to become a better designer.

When in your job, you might have come across experiences that positively influenced your design, and there can also be days when every design you crafted wasn't up to the mark and was rejected by your client. Whether positive or negative, every experience counts and serves as the enabler of growth for the future.

Gain valuable hidden insights

Hidden areas offer the best invaluable insights. Critical thinking, along with insights, helps us understand a problem and offers alternative ways of perceiving it. To identify and understand the connection between each idea, we ought to be active design thinkers and not passive. Critical thinking allows us to ponder ideas and assumptions. Designers can determine whether the ideas and findings represent a realistic user experience by applying critical thinking.

An asynchronous design is restrictive as it is usually made through steps in the 'design and think' or 'think and design' approach. Thus, a design should be viewed as a synchronous process, where the situations are observed and needs and opportunities identified while applying thinking that represents the target users. A synchronous design is nothing but an aspect of critical design which makes you a better designer.

What are the advantages of critical thinking?

Critical thinking is one of those important components that exist at every stage of the design thinking process. Applying it offers the following benefits to every designer:

Critical thinking aids problem solving, is reflective and supports wider applications

It aids in problem solving

Critical thinking is not rational and is based on a set of logical rules. It offers plenty of possibilities for creativity in the critical thinking process.

It is reflective

Effective use of the critical thinking method ensures objectivity and does not leave any scope for biases.

It supports wider applications

Critical thinking is a method that applies to all projects irrespective of the type of expected solution.

A designer is required to have creativity as a must and a fundamental element when making a design. However, it takes a lot more concepts to be applied to a design. Apart from the knowledge, skills, and creativity that a designer has, the ability to think critically is considered one of the most fundamental processes in transforming an ordinary designer into an extraordinary one.

A critically thought design carries great value. It involves observing different designs and learning to go deep inside them, and thinking about why they do and don't work.

Giving feedback to another designer with the effort you put into it determines the end value you both get out of it. Hence, it is a win-win situation at the end if you take the critique sportingly and as a measure for improvisation.

In this article, we have tried to give you some useful and effective tips that help to incorporate critical thinking in your design projects. We hope you can step up your design project to the next level by applying these tips that we have mentioned.


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