This jargon phrase was made popular by the Queen of daytime TV, Oprah. She has described it as, “…those moments when I sit down to talk to somebody and they say something that makes me look at life or a situation in a completely different way. And I say, ‘Aha! I get it!’ Light bulb! Bing, bing, bing moment. And the little hairs on your arm stand up. That is an aha moment.”

The dictionary defines the Aha moment as: a surprising realization, insight, recognition, or comprehension.

In the design world, we’re familiar with this phrase because it is almost expected of us. It’s like the best ideas for a solution just come to us in one of these special moments where suddenly the stars align! That momentous occasion; that little nugget of truth that blossoms; that moment where the brilliance just pops into our heads — like magic.

Though it’s wonderful to think of the design world in this way, it’s really not the case. As designers, it’s our job to research and learn as much as we possibly can about the underlying needs for the project by asking the right questions. We go through iteration after iteration and test out the design to ensure it is effective. It becomes part of a whole process informed by research and evidence-building.

So in the end, the ‘aha’ moment is actually a result of the culmination of the right inputs and process. And let’s face it, it’s still pretty magical.

Many of today’s mainstream approaches to product or service design borrow from the “new” and “innovative” ideas that originate from a peripheral edge of the design world. Terms like collaboration, iteration, and innovation are all now commonly used buzzwords that can often be thrown around bordering on jargon and, in some cases, just plain silliness. 

This series on Buzzwords will shed light on what certain terms and phrases mean from a designer’s point of view and aims to help build stronger designer-client relationships everywhere.

Check out our previous posts:

Buzzwords – What is Collaboration?
Buzzwords – “Fail often so you can succeed sooner”


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