Naivety and design

While reading the post from John Lusk this morning, I recalled when I was taking French classes as a new immigrant to Quebec. In one of our classes, the teacher asked us to describe ourselves. This is good practice using the verb “être”, “to be”, along with a variety of adjectives.

The teacher was very surprised when I said, “Je suis un peu naif”. I’m a little naive. At first, the teacher tried to convince me that I was confused. Naive must mean something else in English…right? I eventually convinced her that I did mean exactly what I said. I’m naive. I often try things that I fail at (sometimes a good thing). I also try to take people at their word (often a bad thing). It’s part of who I am.

That got me thinking about how it relates to creativity and design. Could naivety a hidden personality characteristic that aids in creativity? Doesn’t it always take a certain amount of over-optimism to believe that we can think of something new or better?

I don’t believe naivety is a good characteristic for a designer, as it shows a lack of understanding and consciousness about the problem you are trying to address. What I believe makes a good designer is somebody who does not always have the answer but knows where to go and find it and has the ability to hold on information as well as discard.

I feel being calculated, understanding, honest, moral, ethical, confident, balanced, compassionate and inquisitive are some of the greatest personality traits a designer can have. Being naive is like being blind to the problems that can potentially be created and involves blind guess work and lack of foresight.

Inquisitive to me is probably high up there on needed traits, because as a designer you always need to be asking questions and have a passion for finding things out, which is why designers are innovators rather than inventors as we don’t try and create the unknown(unless as a result of serendipity) , we use what is around us to build the best possible solutions. To me being inquisitive is also shows that somebody has drive and passion, which means ideas are researched and thoughtful bringing with it a wealth of understanding.

The dictionary definition of naivety leaves little to aspire to.

naivety / naïveté
noun gullibility, innocence, simplicity, inexperience, credulity, ingenuousness, artlessness, guilelessness, callowness

These are some rough thoughts love to hear what you guys think

I agree with cholden here. Naivety is not really the most desirable trait to have. With that said… being naive can help you get started on things calculated designers never would try. Being able to jump head first into something you know little about can be a great learning experience.

I’m on the not good side, for naivety. There is not a Forest Gump aspect to design. Design is about experience, knowledge of materials, the ability to synthesize shape and function, the ability to innovate, create, combine. Design experience adds the further dimension of awareness of market utility.

I don’t value amateur over experience. Experience does not equate closure to possibilities, the ideal as a designer is to gain a wealth of experience and remain as open to the new as possible. The naive quality does not factor into this.

That being said, if someone came to me with any “mouse shaped like a __________” novelty concept, it would have a very difficult time breaking my skepticism barrier.

For me naivety and stupidity go hand in hand with being creative and taking risks.

Though awareness as to when you’re being naive and stupid and what stage of the process you’re in is a key ingredient that turns this weakness into a strength.

In fact that goes for my philosophy of life as well, but whatever, maybe I’m beng naive :stuck_out_tongue:

Hate to sum up my post with a Diesel advertising campaign, but they hit the nail on the head.

Those are great ads. I can’t believe they come from Diesel!

Yes to this. I believe any good designer is some what naive. But, the ability to see when you are being naive and step back is a true talent.

I’ll have to disagree. What you are describing is not the definition of naive. Designers seem to be more likely to say “I don’t know if this will work.” and will take a risk of failure. Trying something new is most definately not naive.

Good point. I guess by definition, if you are able to step away you are not naive.

Diesel is selling jeans to youth. So, is the art director Bruno Collin naive or a cynic?

French journalist and founder of WAD magazine, Bruno Collin has been announced as Diesel’s new artistic director, replacing Wilbert Das who left the Italian fashion brand late last year. “Today more than ever, I want Diesel to express its own DNA in a way that’s more modern and innovative,” said Diesel president and founder Renzo Rosso. We don’t know how much designing Collin will be doing because he was quoted as saying that his role would be that of “an alchemist, an orchestra conductor. The dynamism of this brand only needs some new channels of inspiration and expression.” It should be interesting to see what new directions Diesel goes in the next few months with Collin head of the creative.

The message is for consumers, not creators.

I think remaining a little naive about a project is a good thing. It allows you to try things you may not otherwise do, I think the entire ‘blue sky’ section of design is based on naivety. I think it leads you down a road you otherwise wouldn’t wander down, and that sort of exploration can only benefit a creative thinker right?

I wouldn’t advocate spending oodles of time on every ignorant-design (Basquiat coined ignorant-art I’m appropriating the use). But there is merit to the idea, if design were just calculated, rational decisions I think we would end up with a very limited marketplace to work with. However most people/consumers do irrational things, so having ignorant or irrational design can work wonders.

One could very easily argue that Apple with no cellphone experience and zero success with tablet computers (they actually had a few duds) was exceptionally naive to think they could dominate the smartphone market. Several Rimm, Nokia, and Samsung CEO’s thought they were; if memory serves me right, the existing PDA’s and Prada phone with touch screens were kind of flops. Combining naive ‘pie in the sky’ approach to cell phone making (a 600 dollar phone in early 2000’s when they came out was an astronomical amount) and then making calculated decisions has turned out the best selling cellphone the world has seen (to date).

The paper clip is another example of naive design (or ignorant design), it was made by a drunk to pay off a bar tab. Fast forward, we’re still using it today – the man literally gave away an idea worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just try to design something without a frame of reference and see what happens.

Interesting comments.

I think Nurb really grasped where I was trying to go. One can’t hold naivety throughout the development process. There’s a time to explore and a time to build. When I’m brainstorming day one, I try to be as naive as possible (what if we can…?). When the team has decided on a vision for the product, I have to try to take that idea and pull it back to what can we build.

BTW, Ghery designed the Guggenheim Bilbao in the '80’s. At the time, they couldn’t form the titanium sheets that form it’s walls. The alternative metals were all eliminated either due to the physical constraints (ie weight, durability) or aesthetic reasons. Ghery pushed a titanium manufacturer to develop a process to make the sheets he needed. It’s almost as naive as Scotty spec’ing transparent aluminum.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish” - something Jobs quoted in his Stanford speech.

@nxakt: how do you do all those moodboards? I know you ain’t compiling them manually…

Google image search results + Firefox and an add-on called Abduction, which with two clicks lets you save a web page as an image. Very handy for full size images of multiple screen height web pages.

I use Aviary for the same thing.

for mac users, command+shift+4 does the same thing (screen grab region) but not multi-screen height, looks nice

I do a “print screen” and then paste it into PS. 31337!

For some reason I think of archeologists unearthing an object or discovering something new and not quickly jumping to conclusions on what it is, what it is used for, or an explanation. I think approaching a design problem, especially early on, should be somewhat similar. For a moment, forget what you know about a particular thing, your experience about using a particular thing, and basically be stoopid and ask ridiculous questions to understand the primary essence(s), and then start narrowing down the direction. Is this naivety though?

I used to do this exercise in freshman year where we would put an object in front of us and figure out what it does only by what we see of it and not by what we already know of it. For example, let’s say the thing was a pencil. You couldn’t say it was a pencil, that it had an eraser, that you write with it or that you hold it in your hand like so, etc… Mostly observations that would lead to questions and the challenge was to ask the best questions. It was a fun exercise and many times we would even catch the prof making observations or assumptions that were from a previous experience or knowledge of the thing.

Will check out Aviary too. This is four clicks, right click, “save as image” click “entire selection” click “name ok” click done.

Originals get saved in png format and are large, converted to jpg to be more friendly here.

I think it is not only good to be naive, but essential. I always say I like to be the least informed person on the team. I want to operate in the realm of ideas and possibility. I will track down the people I need to help me poke holes in and implement the solution.

My rule is that of gravity. It is easier to bring an idea down to Earth than it is to push it to the moon.

I’m always surprised what people will achieve when they are given an “impossible” goal. At the end of the day, isn’t the story of every achievement a tale of false impossibilities? It take naiveté, confidence, stubbornness, single-mindedness, and optimism to ignore everyone around you and pursue the least obvious solution, and there is nothing I realish more than coming home from Asia with a round of working prototypes that no one thought would work.

Someone once told me that sentiment is emotions cheap cousin, and I think you can make the relationship between cynicism and intelligence (sorry to offend the proponents of cynicism!). Some people like to look smart in a meeting by stating all the reasons things wont work, but I never saw anyone go into the history books, the cover of Time magazine, or even get a promotion for not finding the solution to something.

So be proud of your naiveté, I head someone say the most challenging job is that of resident optimist. When I was a kid I thought I would design an entire city from scratch, while flying to work in my hover jet race car from a glass house in a dessert while a robot assistant answered my calls… it could still happen, I already have voice mail. (I better snap up a glass house in Palm Springs while the rates are still low)