Gut First, Information Second

If you have ten years of experience in your field, you don’t need daily industry updates to make sound decisions. Your gut should inform your thinking, not the other way around. But nowadays we all have an endless, constant stream of information pouring into our brains day in and day out. That makes it hard to use our gut at all, no matter how well-developed it might be.

Let’s say you’re a designer tasked with rebranding an orange juice company. If you go online and start researching, you’ll find mountains of evidence that round, flat shapes are the way to go. You’ll also find data that supports 3D images making a comeback. You’ll find success stories from brands with one-syllable names without vowels and brands with names that sound like they’ve been around for 200 years.

In other words, you can buy into any narrative and subsequent set of decisions that you want. It all worked for somebody. Overwhelmed with options, which route you ultimately choose ends up being somewhat random, influenced by which information you find when, or whoever’s story sounds most compelling. But if you go about your work that way, you neglect years of training. You use your gut only to latch on to other people’s advice instead of using it outright.

A great designer doesn’t open their browser at all when starting a project. They consult their gut first, and perhaps later, they might supplement what their experience tells them with information. “What makes this brand special? What kind of design would reflect this specialness well?” All you need is a bunch of questions, some boredom, and perhaps a sketch board or iPad to doodle on.

It’s hard to put technology aside in a world where technology is ubiquitous. But it’s neither impossible nor a recipe for disaster. Remember what your strengths are, but even more importantly, remember to use them.