Designers’ Skills for Non-Designers

People tend to think that designers’ chief skills are creating skills – ones that require mainly artistic hands and trained eyes. Although these skills are crucial, designers’ most important skills are mental and cognitive ones. The ability to recognize a need or an opportunity, to imagine a solution and to translate an idea into a product, requires much more than great sketching and visualization abilities. In this article, I review seven different designers’ skills that can contribute to any profession – skills that are obvious for designers, but might be refreshing and valuable for non-designers.

Visual thinking
Designers use visual means not only for creating but also for thinking. Designers’ thinking processes include a pen and a sketchbook. Visual thinking is very different from verbal and textual thinking; it’s freer and not limited to a “readymade collection of words.” Visual thinking can improve the outcome and lead to different results of any work. You don’t have to be an artist to become a visual thinker—all that’s needed is a little practice of letting the words go and the pen to lead.

Creativity and innovation are an integrated part of the design profession. Designers cannot deliver without being creative and innovative. No matter what you do and what your profession is, creativity and innovation can upgrade your work (and your life). Being creative is, above all, a state-of-mind; however, there are some practices to enhance creativity and innovation. Be open-minded, take nothing for granted, ask questions, challenge assumptions, research, test, think differently, and always assume there are better ways.

Product design is holistic; it is based on a concepts as well as small details. There is no such thing as a “partly good design.” Designers must be meticulous. Meticulousness means paying attention and taking care of the smallest details (even the hidden ones), and not cutting corners. Meticulousness is an essential aspect of being professional, no matter what you do.

Work under uncertainty conditions
Designing a new product means working under uncertain conditions. Most people do not feel comfortable with uncertain conditions—they like to know where they are going and how the outcome looks. Working under conditions of certainty means no opportunity for innovation. After all, innovation cannot evolve when the outcome is known in advance. Accept and embrace uncertain conditions—it will enhance your innovation and improve your outcome.

Two brain’s hemispheres
Most people are either right- or left-brain dominant. They either have a logical-rational character or an emotional-artistic character. Being able to use both hemispheres evenly is a must for designers and a great advantage for any profession.

Design is a multidisciplinary profession. It includes emotions, rationalism, strategy, art, engineering, business, marketing, and more.  A good designer cannot focus purely on design—he or she has to collaborate with many other professions. Even if your profession is not that wide, you should expand it. Learn and consider a wider scope of your domain. You don’t have to be an expert in all surrounding fields, but you have to be able to understand them.

Design work without passion will never be great. It is just impossible to create and innovate without an internal engine. Love and passion can improve any work. Do what you love and love what you do. It sounds cliché, yet it is so true.


On my next post, I’ll give tips about hiring an industrial designer – do’s and don’ts when interviewing and evaluating a new product designer. 
Be notified about this upcoming post.

  • Christian Theill

    as usual, a great synthesis!

    • Yariv Sade

      Thanks :)

  • Fabien Deboves

    So true !