What if the designer was primarily a psychologist?

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    If we are not familiar with the two professions, we can quickly think that they have nothing in common. However, when we look at the facts, the methods applied are very similar. Listening and empathy being both qualities at the heart of these two jobs, we will see how similar the process of observing and understanding the problem is. Indeed, in both cases, before solving a problem, it is necessary to go through an upstream phase where the psychologist, as well as the designer, will be able to appropriate the subject and observe it in order to understand the issues at stake.

    Psychology and design: same observation process

    First, let's look at psychology as we understand it. When you call on a psychologist to guide you in the problems you encounter (with your work, family, spouse, friends, or even yourself), the psychologist will train you to exercise an introspection process. For example, for many people still having relationship problems with their loved ones, they go to a psychologist in order to receive factual solutions: “I don't feel happy, yet I have a loving wife, a well-paid job and a family there for me.”

    With these words, the psychologist will not give you the magic keys to achieving happiness and inner peace, she will often ask you questions and go into your privacy, question your past, be interested in the relationships you have with your loved ones, or even take an interest in the behaviors of your parents, or even take an interest in the behaviors of your parents to understand what you deeply feel and thus determine the reason for this feeling of unhappiness. This process with the psychologist can take up to several sessions, and therefore possibly several months. By talking about yourself, by confiding in yourself and by supporting your psychologist within yourself, you are doing introspection work right to the source of the problem. So, as you do this introspection, everything becomes clearer, you better understand your reactions, your fears, your behavior and that of those around you. Your psychologist did not find the problem, but the source of the problem. And it is this source that will have to be resolved. “I am not happy because I have made unhappiness go away, I am happy because I know why I was unhappy.”

    Now, in design methodology, this process is similar. It's not about solving the aesthetic problem, changing the curve of your product or the color of your interface. It's about observing, immersing yourself, and above all understanding the problem in its entirety.

    I will give you a very concrete example: a real estate company calls on designers to review the agency layout. According to the brand, their branches are inaccessible, as they are often on the periphery due to the large surface area of their stores. The aim is then to redesign the store in a simpler, more functional way and on a smaller surface. Clear brief, problem identified. At first glance only! By looking a little further, and therefore by interviewing customers, real estate developers etc., we realize that if people do not come to their agencies enough, it is not simply due to the fact that they are far and inaccessible, it is because there is a certain block on the part of the client in entering a real estate agency! The source problem is therefore found upstream, when we notice that there is a problem with the image of the real estate developer. Does the customer think they're going to have to pay, commit, maybe even get ripped off? The designer's solution is then not to remake a pretty and pleasant store, but to integrate a concept of service that will reassure the customer and return to his biased vision of the promoter.

    Thus, the designer thinks about the experience he will have inside this agency, with a new way of communicating with the salesperson: for example, a living room instead of the standard face-to-face office, a welcome with coffee, why not even a certain pedagogy, and especially discussion rather than selling at any price.

    With this process similar to the psychologist's process, the user is at the heart of the experience, the designer shows real empathy, as does a psychologist, so that in the end, the solution is the fairest and most appropriate.

    In this case, among many others, the observation phase served to guide the project towards the most appropriate solution. Meeting users whether direct or indirect, learning about a subject (which we sometimes don't know at all), being curious and open-minded is what we expect from a good designer. Yes, the designer is a creator, but he is also an observer and above all a problem finder.

    Using psychology to improve yourself as a designer

    The process of psychological introspection is strongly similar to the methodology of design and innovation with this common objective: understand the problem. If you have already succeeded in making the connection, you must now assimilate it. A good designer is not just good at technique (drawings, 3D, design, etc.), he is also empathetic and above all a listener. Perfection does not exist, but isn't the aim to get as close as possible to it? If the problem is not well identified, it goes without saying that it will not be well resolved. In other words, the solution provided will not be the most appropriate. Precisely for this reason, the immersion and observation stage is essential in the design process and takes time. It is also here that design thinking is emerging and many startups today decide to follow this very specific process by following very specific steps: observation — ideation — design.

    Design, contrary to what many may think, is not just about setting up a project and making it beautiful, reflection is present and represents a good part of the design. Today, this approach is emerging, and can be the key source of innovation in all fields. So, if you are a designer, if you want to become one, or if you simply want to be inspired by it, be a good psychologist first! ;)


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