Recently a friend asked me if I'd rather lose my sight or hearing.
This isn't an easy question - as absurdly hypothetical as it is.
If speech were an option, that would be the first to go, which is telling in its own right.
In the end I favored losing my sight because I need my hearing for 360° awareness and communicating with people.
Sight makes life easier to live. Hearing makes life worth living.
The Blind Designer
Yes, I would go so far as to say that a designer is better off with his ears than eyes if he had to chose between them.
This may seem crazy to those who think a designer's job is primarily in aesthetics. How could a blind person do that job?
But how can someone who is deaf design something that speaks to more than just their own needs?
No designer is an island. They don't design alone or only for themselves. What good is a market of one?
A good designer is a good listener. There is far more that goes into a product than a polished exterior. Great design is the product of all the steps taken before "designing".
A leaf is beautiful not because it is stylish but because it is natural, created in its exact from by its exact function. A designer tries to put forth an object as naturally as a tree puts forth a leaf. He does not smother his object with his own personal taste but tries to be objective. He helps the object, if I may so put it, to make itself by its own proper means.
-Bruno Munari, Design as Art
Listening, Thinking, Making
Designing is 80% listening, 15% thinking, and 5% making. And like every good statistic, I made that up on the spot.
Listening here stands for research: understanding the market, understanding the people, and understanding the purpose.
Most projects that fail do so because of being incorrectly defined. Understanding the market, its people, and their problems to be solved is the often-forgotten prerequisite to making something great.
As a side note: this is also why design costs. Research takes time and time is always the most valuable (and hence expensive) good in a project. It also cannot be bought with more money.
The 15% thinking is ideation, being creative, and problem solving. It builds on what comes before.
The last five percent, defining the form, should then come by itself. As naturally as the leaf on a tree.