YD Talks: Define the problem first, not the brief

There are a lot of ways to approach this post, but I guess the best way is to paraphrase a mentor of mine. Clients lack the power to communicate effectively. That’s why they rely on designers to do it for them. Clients often come to designers with a solution ready in their mind, hoping the designer will help them just with the execution, but oftentimes a well-defined problem is a solution in itself. One often forgets that design thinking is the truly valuable service we provide, and not just designing itself… and that starts with discovering the purpose of the project through proper questioning. There’s a lot to gain from asking “Why do you need me”, rather than “What do you need from me”. A Why-based question leads to a bilateral conversation, whereas a What-based question makes it sound like you’re looking for simple, direct orders from your client. No points for guessing which approach forms a better dynamic between designer and client, and earns you more respect as a design professional…!

Chris Do’s video above talks about focusing on the problem before focusing on the solution. Asking the right questions doesn’t just help you build a more detailed idea of what needs to be done, it also helps build credibility and appear invested, involved. “Your value is determined by the quality of questions you ask”, says Do, and that stands true across pretty much every design discipline.

Chris Do is an Emmy award-winning director, designer, strategist and educator. He’s the Chief Strategist and CEO of Blind, executive producer of The Skool, and the Founder of The Futur — an online education platform that teaches the business of design to creative thinkers. Follow them on YouTube and Instagram.