Everyone has a different understanding of how something works. It could something as simple as baking a cake. Some people may add more milk, while others use whole wheat flour instead of white, but there isn’t one way to bake a cake. In fact, there are different amounts of ingredients, methods and kinds of cake you could make when considering what and how to bake a cake. If you asked multiple people, you will probably get different answers. But the answers were based on context and their understanding of the question.
As you can see, something as simple as baking a cake required more information than what we expected. We might assume there is one way to bake a cake because that was the way we learned it, but it doesn’t have to be like that. In design, the products we create depend on the intent and situation that requires us to approach the problem in a certain way. Who are our users? What is their situation? Needs? Wants? Goals?
Recently in my part time work as a design consultant, I have found myself more aware of how I communicate my ideas to others. This is by communicating in a context that matches the goal of what the person is saying and connecting it to their understanding of the project, in which influences the whole team’s to make sure we are all on the same page.
If we want to make sure our designs are understood across a wide audience of people, as well as our fellow teammates, we need context and to communicate expectations around what we want people to see.
People want to see the bigger picture
Communicating ideas to non designers is crucial in order for your idea to be understood and applied to a world filled with implications/ ramifications behind every design decision you make. Giving context can avoid unnecessary questions so the focus can be on the idea and its value.
Focus on real life application and align the way you communicate your designs with your audience. That way they can relate to it, and realize the impact your design is trying to convey without getting distracted by arbitrary details.
Don’t use design jargon, use everyday speech (especially to non designers)
The kind of language we use makes concepts accessible, applicable and easy to understand. There is less confusion, more focused conversations and you can move forward.
Humanize the experience because we often forget we are designing for people.
Often times we forget that the people we present our designs to are human too. Instead of explaining concepts that are rooted in design language, ground your concepts in an actual scenario that is centered around how an user reaches their goal and address their problems with the product. Tell a STORY.
When I was working at Intuit, often times I would refer to the people I was designing for as either accountants and small business owners. If you think about it, this sounds less human or less relatable to majority of people who aren’t accountants or the latter. When I framed describing my design to telling a story, I introduced people by their roles AND names. As a result, people were immediately able to understand my design because names were a way to humanize the idea by making it clear that I was designing for real people.
Understanding across everyone and everything
Context allows us to understand situations faster which can lead to solutions, calls people to action quicker, and gives more time for other things.
No context makes ideas confusing and frustrating to people that don’t have time or patience to understand, especially to people in higher positions where their decisions matter.
Ideas can die on the table if you can’t explain them well.
Context is what grounds your idea in reality and makes seemingly nebulous problems, tangible. When we create the circumstances that foster understanding or curiosity, It gets us invested. An example is when people tell stories. The most interesting stories start with a bold statement or “hook” that leads us to understanding the message that follows.
In design presentations, set the tone for the product or idea you are going to present. The difference between ideas is giving context around the problem, how it will exist, addressing a need, and creating impact. Ideas are cheap. Anyone can come up with them. It’s all about execution and story aka context building.
In the beginning of my project, there have been a lot of miscommunication issues which was due to misinterpreting each other’s ideas and not being open to approaching things in a different way than what I am familar with.
It is important to give context to everything. It allows people to understand what you are talking before going into the details. Context allows us to be clear with understanding and scoping the problem we are trying to solve as well as making sure we are communicating the right thing to the right audience.
Context is everything. It shapes the meaning in all communication. Without context you can’t communicate effectively. When your message is delivered in one context, but received in another, it likely leads to miscommunication.
We can have less misunderstandings and establish more connection amongst each other by framing what we say in a way that we realize the value our words hold, and the power they have to drive change.
Check out my Skillshare Course on UX Research and learn something new!
To help you get started on owning your design career, here are some amazing tools from Rookieup, a site I used to get mentorship from senior designers.
- Build a portfolio with help from an experienced designer
- Essential tools to strengthen and build your portfolio
Links to some other cool reads:
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