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Seeing Things Differently

The next time you’re engaged in a design problem, try on a different pair of glasses, and see what happens.

There are lots of phrases that reference one’s eyesight: The way I see it. Let me take a look. See what I’m saying? A vision for the future. 

Literally, seeing is about perceiving something with our eyes. Figuratively, it means to understand – to comprehend something that may have been commonly known, but not previously within our experience. Oh, NOW I see. 

I was a nearsighted child. With glasses, the optometrist easily corrected my vision to 20/20. The corrections have been adjusted as I’ve aged. I now use a separate pair for distance, reading, and seeing what is on the end of my fork.

I’ve considered laser eye surgery, but I like wearing eyeglasses. I even collect them. I have more than a dozen pair. Near field, far field, tinted, photo-sensitive, stylish, crude, comfortable, protective, sporty. Colors and frame styles to match my mood and wardrobe. Even a rose-colored pair. (Seriously.) Enough pair that when I misplace one, I am always able to find another so that I can see.

an assortment of eyeglasses

The interesting thing: every time I put on a different pair of glasses, how I see – and what I see – changes slightly. Sometimes it’s about what I can see through the lenses. Other times it’s about how people see me – and they how interact with me. The net result is that I experience the world around me differently.

As a designer, I am always looking for a fresh perspective so I can create better design solutions. To bastardize a phrase: Before you judge someone, you need to walk a mile in their shoes, wearing their glasses, seeing the world through their eyes.

I sometimes offer different pairs of glasses to my clients to get them to see things differently – to notice new details, or alter their perceptions of color, movement, or texture.

Everyone does the same thing. They put the glasses on for a few moments, look around the room, remark on how much correction my lenses have, then take them off again to continue the conversation.

They missed the point.

Truth is, someone else’s glasses can be uncomfortable. Frames don’t fit our nose or ears. They may hurt our eyes or so distort our vision so much that we trip over furniture and run into doors. Many dismiss the exercise as just silly. But that’s what wearing someone else’s glasses requires.

The next time you’re engaged in a design problem, grab or borrow a different pair of glasses. Put on a pair of reading glasses, sport goggles, smudged or scratched glasses, thick glasses, sunglasses –  and then see what happens.

It’s not about the glasses. It’s a simple method for empowering yourself to look at the world around you in a different way. It will not only change how you use the phrase “I see” – it will make you a better designer.

Seems simple, but seeing is often more difficult that it appears.

See what I mean?

P.S. I love simple techniques like this. I often use them with my team and my clients so we can view the problems we are trying to solve from the perspective of the user that faces them. Invariably, that perspective helps us frame the true problem that needs addressing, or faciitates a creative leap from a design that simply meets the specifications to one that truly meets a need.

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