Jared Spool – The Anatomy of a Design Decision

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What are the habits of highly effective design teams? The best designs come from not one, but hundreds of well-made decisions. The worst designs arise out of hundreds of poorly-made decisions.

Jared Spool and his team began researching the design decision-making process 5 years ago. He became interested in this because he defines the decisions as the building blocks of a design. In this one hour video of a speech he gave at Webstock ’12 he highlights some of the knowledge that they have gained. He identifies several unique styles in design decision making. Watching this will not automatically endow you with the ability to make great decisions in your projects, but you will make better choices. One piece of great advice: throw out all your guidelines, rules and methodology. They don’t do anything but slow you down. Use your experience based knowledge to create solutions. You do not start from zero each time, patterns and knowledge are recorded and can be called upon again in the future. But the rules that begin “it must be done this way because…” can be thrown out. They kill innovation and slow the process.

What kind of designer do you aspire to be? That is the question put forth by Jared Spool as he attempts to define design and the process making design decisions. The anatomy of a design decision grows out of these styles:

  • Unintentional design – for better or worse: stuff happens
  • Self design – design based on what you would enjoy using
  • Genius design – based on experience and repeated success
  • Activity-focused design – observing others and inserting tools to improve the experience
  • Experience-focused design – this comes from the client and not the designer; they know their needs and how it will be used

There was not a value attached to any of the styles: each of these styles has a purpose. The key is to know when to use a specific style and whatever style chosen at the outset should be committed to for the entire project.

This summary does not do this subject or his speech justice and is intended only as a very high level look. Enjoy the hour. It will be time well spent.


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