Common Biases and Design Corrections

If design is the rendering of intent, then the two important things are the rendering itself (execution, tools, quality) and the intent behind the design.

Where most projects of mine have struggled have been with the intent behind the design.  Decisions get made without regard to the projects’ objectives or constraints, or in an arbitrary way.

Fortunately for you,  Business Insider cataloged some common biases here, adapted from Daniel Kahnemen’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

In my limited experience, I’ve noticed these three biases most often:

  1. Group Think
  2. Confirmation Bias
  3. Halo effect

The best design corrections for 1 and 2 is unvarnished User Research.  No, I don’t mean Surveys, either. Great Ethnography makes it much more difficult to ignore dissenting or contradictory opinions because there’s an actual human on the other end of the discussion.   It also does not take very much time, budget, or effort to do a passable job on this.

The halo effect most often takes the form of something like “He’s a wizard” or “She’s a rockstar” [insert title du jour]. As designers, our reputations work for us in winning projects and counter us in executing them.  Bad Clients erroneously equate reputation and rate for miraculous and obsequious – it’s our job to set and enforce working boundaries.

That’s why it’s important to explain that Design is a craft, not an art and certainly not magic; to explain (ahead of time) our process, needs, and timelines;  to show our work iteratively so they understand we’re not nailing it on the first crack; to measure our value in concrete terms, and to help clients understand their role in the process.  Design Corrections start with shared beliefs, taxonomy, and language about the project.

Research and project management are core design skills because without them you’ll build the wrong thing.