Sometimes complex problems have simple solutions. Nowadays we tend to overcomplicate things, overthink our ideas and overwork the product or process. Yet, the easiest and most obvious solution is often the best, especially when it comes to design.

Designers should trust their intuition and design with their instincts in certain cases. More often than not, those gut feelings are correct and the product is better developed because of them. Being able to follow your instincts is a good ability to own, especially for product and web designers.

Instincts lead to simple design solutions

In order to solve a problem, designers are normally expected to research and explore various options during the process. They are taught to try different ideas, look at the pros and cons of each and arrive at a final solution based on their research.

While this approach certainly works and often results in a great product, the final design is often close to the one that was instinctive to the designer. This may be due to subjective bias during the exploration and research stages, but you can also say that humans instinctively know what will work and what won’t.

Over the millennia, humans have evolved and learned how to deduce solutions based on past experience. These instincts present themselves in everyday life, telling us to go a certain route based on the outcome of similar problems in the past. Instincts help us to make good judgements and decisions based on memories, associations, pattern-matching and assumptions.

Experience equals better instincts

Our instincts are developed and improved by more experience and knowledge. The more you design, the better your artistic instincts become. It allows designers to refine their ability to make quick decisions, often leading to the same result that would have been found if a lengthy research and exploratory process had been followed.

The more experience you have, the more research you’ve conducted and the more products you’ve used all help to improve your design instincts. It also gives you the ability to know what the best solution is without having to waste time – which is why experience is so important.

When instincts can be bad for design

Sometimes your instincts aren’t always right. They often come with biases and sometimes lead us to misjudge our audience or target market. Instincts also tend to come with a sense of confidence, which can hide the right solution behind the easiest one.

Our subconscious minds always look for patterns and similarities when trying to find solutions. However, our memories often reconstruct past events in a more positive manner. This is why nostalgia is such a powerful feeling – we tend to remember the good times and forget the boring or bad ones.

Designers using pure instinct can be subject to their nostalgia and incorrect assumptions when searching for a great design solution. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we can all be wrong. It depends on the situation and the complexity of the problem, but designing only from instinct can sometimes lead to a less effective design in certain cases.

How to know when to follow your instincts

Finding a balance between intuition and research is key to a better design. Relying purely on either one can affect your designs, causing you to take too many shortcuts or take too long to complete the process.

Designers need to know when to follow their gut and when to be wary of their instincts. Firstly, think of the type of project you’re working on. Is it a small task that will only affect a few people, or is it a large multi-team project with a large audience? Will it take a day to complete or a couple of months? Think about the long-term implications and results.

For smaller projects with a smaller audience and quick turnaround time, going with your instincts is a good idea. If the project is complex, lengthy and has the potential to affect a large audience, it’s probably better to do the research and explore various options to create the best design.

Knowing when to go with your intuition often comes down to the cost of being wrong. If the project is low impact and you’re confident with following your instincts, then do so. If the stakes are higher or you’re not feeling that strong gut sensation, then it’s better to take your time and research the outcomes.

Designing purely from instinct may be a bit irrational in some cases, but when a designer is faced with a low-impact problem, it’s better to follow your gut and opt for the simple solution. Design instincts are formed over years of practice and experience. Knowing when to follow them and when to ignore them is what makes a good designer.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, webtuistes, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


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