Starting with Why

Developing a process framework for designing solutions

Design is no longer an artistic practice and creativity is not just an artist's emotional expression. Designers are the solution to solving problems that enable people, businesses, and technology to impact how the world works. Through personal experience, experiments, and research, I’ve evolved from being an artist into a scientific designer. Designers who are systematic, methodic, and process driven innovate more strategically.

Moving from Abstract to Concrete

Solving a design problem is essentially finding order in chaos. As designers, we start with an abstract idea that will eventually become a concrete useable product. I’ve adopted a design approach based on Simon Sinek’s talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. He evangelizes a mental framework called “The Golden Circle” which inspires change through rearranging how you approach a problem.

Designers often begin a design process by identifying the things we are designing for, what Sinek’s describes as “The What.” This sets limitations and creates an inflexibility to innovate because we’ve prematurely identified the solution. Instead, Sinek works on identifying the unknowns and focuses on “The Why.”

Let’s use my design portfolio as an example:

  • The Why: evangelize design
  • The How: create a resource that identifies the aspects of design I want to share with the world
  • The What: showcase of a series of projects, research, case studies, and learnings that can impact how products are designed

By identifying these three parts, I have a much better idea of what I want to create. I apply this process to a lot of my projects as the foundation before I start.


In solving real problems, the approach is very similar. I view the design process as having three core parts: strategy, iteration, and execution. Each correlate with the above framework of why, how, and what. The core parts can be broken down into a variety of steps: hypothesize, ideate, synthesize, create, experiment, and validate.

This breakdown is derived from the scientific method. This may sound odd at first but I’ve discovered that problem solving in design is not much different than experimenting in science.

When you think about designers as problem solvers rather than creatives, you begin to see parallels between the product development process and the scientific method.

Ultimately the solutions designed will have gone through cycles of testing and iterations just like in an experiment. The feedback from users is then adapted into the final designs. I believe that in establishing a process, I’ve changed how I approach design problems. I’ve learned to start with the abstract whys and turn them into concrete whats.