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Pivot Etc.

24 Things We’ve Learned About Design (Over 24 Years): Part 2

August 11, 2022 3 minute read

Pivot Design Group is celebrating 24 years in business as a design studio in Toronto this month. To mark the occasion, we thought it would be interesting to share 24 things we’ve learned along the way on working in design and running a thriving design studio. In this second weekly post, we list the second six insights on our list:

  1. “What if?” – is a much more compelling line of inquiry than “what is.” Marshall McLuhan said, “we look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards int the future.” Our futures are experienced by the past that few of us fully acknowledge or understand. Trying to prove our ideas is the opposite of being innovative. If you want innovation, think about what if or what might be, rather than the logic of what is.
  2. Go SLOW to go FAST – Design Research is not the path of least resistance. You need to go slow, take your time, and make time for design research. Conducting research and gathering user “evidence” takes time and has a big impact on your process. It empowers you to accelerate into the design phase armed with profound knowledge.
  3. Research is craft – Design Research is the result of analytical creativity. It has the power to unlock opportunities from qualitative learnings from all points of view – users, customers, and stakeholders. Insight grows stronger and gets better with practice. As our information gathering techniques improve, you learn to fine tune your sensitivity around what you’re seeing and hearing and develop effective ways for distilling this information and communicating it.
  4. Research informs design – design influences behaviour. It motivates people to change the world around them.
  5. Focus on experiences and not things – computer scientist and designer Bill Buxton believes we focus on the result instead of the means to get there. As designers, we approach a design project by looking at the object (or product) in question rather than the actions of the users in connection with it. This can lead to assumption and solution-driven design. What’s the goal of the user? What are they trying to achieve? If we focus on user research and allow for experimentation, we see the bigger picture, so we can solve the right problem.
  6. Problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity – these are the top three skills that will be in the most demand in the thriving design workplaces of the future. Pivot. Adapt. Design is destined to be the quintessential tool for success.


Ian Chalmers, RGD
Principal & Creative Director

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