Role of ambiguity in design process

I’m here in my studio making holes in some foam-core for a mock-up. Actually, a series of holes in a series of pieces that all must line up with one another. I’ve come to a wall where my CAD model cannot tell me the result and I must prove the idea in physical space. The ambiguity of this exercise is very high due to imprecise method I am using to make these holes. I’m comfortable with this because I’ve been here many times in my career as a designer. Over the years I’ve learned to make leaps of confidence in my design work even though the methods I am using are imprecise and quick.

This ambiguity and confidence pairing is a learned response that is like a muscle that grows over time with more usage. Much of a designers value is to project confidence in a concept with a high degree of ambiguity contained within. I’ve heard GenM/Z calls this “fake it til you make it”. Projecting confidence even though you are not 100% sure of your claims.

How do you value the role of ambiguity in your design process? Is it something you learned at school or is it something that is integral to your talent? Can it be taught/articulated in the classroom? Do share if you have insights…


I guess some of it depends on what stage of the design process you are in. Ambiguity is good doing brainstorming.

Intuition will always play a role in all phases of new product development. Obviously more on the fuzzy front, but not eliminated in downstream activities like pricing studies either.

Imo, the more experience you have, the more trust you will have in your intuition. Yes, it may be more intrinsic in some than others, but I think it correlates well to how many times you fell off that pony.

You can get all the quant data you want, but at some point you have to pull the trigger, tear the Band-Aid, just do it or whatever cliché is appropriate. Nothing is without intuition.