Designing With Intent

Once a month, my office colleagues have to sit through love the portion of our staff meetings where I propose new ideas, show some cool research or invite us all to think a little deeper about our profession.

These days, I’m really focused on design. It’s partly due to a major project I’m fostering to improve the customer experience across the entire government. I’ve also recently written and analyzed a usability test for a new product we’ll be launching soon. The paths people took to complete the tasks asked during the test served as vivid reminders that very deliberate choices must be made to deliver a good customer experience.

For these initiatives to succeed, for daily communications to work or for emergency information to flourish, we have to design with intent. In a world of a million messages, that’s not easy. I used to simply express this idea by stating we have to be precise.

That’s not good enough any longer, nor does it express enough depth.

Designing with intent is the deliberate choice to focus on every detail and constantly change, adapt and/or improve a webpage, user interface, message, internal process, social media post and much more. This may seem obvious, but as many of us in the government space can attest, it’s sometimes more commonplace for people within the organization to say, in a crude sense, “Here’s a Word document. Post this online as it is” (which often equals 10 paragraphs of dense text).

I shared three videos with my colleagues that I’ve embedded because they weave together a wonderful narrative about this journey of intent:

1.) “Designed By Apple — Intention.” A new campaign from Apple that focuses on its design principles. My favorite line and my new mantra: “There are a thousand ‘no’s’ for every ‘yes.'”

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2.) “The Three Ways Good Design Makes You Happy,” by Don Norman, who shares research and examples of emotional responses to design.

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3.) “We Are All Designers,” by John Hockenberry. A fascinating, deeply personal expression of design and intent.

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Just as we are all communicators today with smartphones in our pockets, I agree with John Hockenberry that we are all designers, too. Are these calls for perfection? No. Apple is far from perfect. I’m sure the other two speakers would join me in saying there’s no “perfection button” in life.

However, we can strive to make deliberate choices to design with intent and sharpen the focus of our work so it can be clearly seen/navigated/searched/consumed/enjoyed by all. We have to design with intent. We have to communicate with intent. We must deliver, with deliberate focus and passion, the words, graphics, images, videos and engagement we need to share.

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By @g_r_e_g Posted in Design

5 comments on “Designing With Intent

  1. This is SO true, Greg. Easily one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) conference presentation I ever attended was at the CDC’s Health Communication conference a few years back. It was in a small room that was woefully overpacked, moderated by one of the smartest folks in social marketing, and the two presenters (maybe there were more, if so, I’ve completely forgotten about them) were from IDEO and the session focused on healthcare design. I’ve never come out of a session as amped and ready to change the world as I did after that one. All because they showed how important design thinking was to the work we did. It radically changed how I thought about the work we do.

    Great post!

    • Jim: Design thinking really does make a difference. It’s a mind shift. As Hockenberry states in the video, design can make sense of the chaos. So true. We are so oversaturated as a culture/society that we need more design thinking. And designers need to be empowered. We have a new homepage design coming out soon and I’m so excited by it because it is designed with intent. Every link is there for a purpose (based on metrics and heat maps I analyzed). And the actual design carries someone through the page nicely. Can’t wait to share it. Designed with intent! The conference sounds awesome. Up next after #NCRsmem, #designgoodthings conference 🙂

  2. “Designing with intent is the deliberate choice to focus on every detail and constantly change, adapt and/or improve a webpage, user interface, message, internal process, social media post and much more.”

    This sounds like an advanced version of what I taught you: “Attention to detail, common sense, and disciplined, intelligent effort.”

    A very nice post, Greg.

    • Denny: I will publicly admit that you are one of the sources of my constant attention to detail. That $%#! opinion writing class 15 years ago demanded I focus on every word. 🙂 The concept has carried over to all elements of communications. I wish this concept could be taught more holistically. It’s needed today.

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