The Weight of Intuition

Intuition Mountain

As designers we are tasked with helping our clients define their visual voice: a note that will carry weight to their consumers, engage them in conversation, and hopefully leave a desired impression. We help to bolster brands, sell products, raise awareness for a cause, and along the way we hope that if we do our job right it will invoke a response. Alongside our teammates from other disciplines we tackle projects head-on, look at them from all sides, scour analytics, pull research papers, look for trends in user experience and consumer expectations, bang our heads against walls until ideas come out.

As part of this process we rely on the tools of our trade to help us translate our ideas into visual deliverables, pull the foundational principles of design around us like a blanket, trust in a process that produces something, anything, that can get the buy-in we're looking for.

The reality is that the tools we have to win a client's trust and approval aren't really what we sell as designers. Mood boards will only get you so far. Story boards will only explain so much. Type specimens will rally only so much support. Design theory will only dazzle clients to a point. Stripped of the multitude of tools in the box we really only have one thing going for us: intuition. Maybe you were born with it; maybe it was built over years of sweating it out, working hard, and learning from your mistakes. Maybe it's a little of both. Maybe it's a lot of both. 

Intuition is subjective. It's in your gut, instinctual and personal. It can impact anything from the tiniest details to the biggest concepts. It manifests itself as style, mood, taste, and trend. It can't be tracked, quoted, read back, sourced, or accepted at face value, yet it's so core to a design project's success it's a wonder why we choose so rarely to explain our work with the response "Because this feels right!"

The reason why? Because you cant sell intuition on its own. It won't fly. It's not a tangible deliverable. Intuition is never a dish served à la carte, it's always prepared casserole style, mixed with bigger bits of solid data and reliable facts that bolster our claim that we've found the right solution.

Why do we need to build a solid foundation of truths around intuition? Because intuition is messy. It's illogical and dangerous. It throws out the notion that solving problems should be derived from 100% logic. So it gets buried, tucked away under a Yucca Mountain of deliverables and process. But it's important to recognize that it's there, that it has a place in the design process, that sometimes the best solutions are the best because it just feels right; because no matter how hard we try to apply pragmatism to all the things we do, intuition is bound to bubble up and mix itself into our work, fusing with the bedrock of logic we've built around it.

And that's ok. That's the way it should be.

Owen is a ferociously passionate collaborator and independent thinker for clients such as PUMA, Cisco, and Dick's Sporting Goods. He is an art director at Viget's HQ in Falls Church, VA.

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