Making a button is easy. But why does the button needed to be there?
Making an icon is doable. But why put an icon instead of a plain text?
Putting a yellow color onto the canvas is not hard. But why yellow?
Typing words is not hard. But why do I need this paragraph?
The craft and the analysis. The output and the rationale. The eye and the hand. The making and the thinking. There is an essential relationship between them yet often disconnected.
To explain the relationship, I love to borrow a painter as an example. Painters are a great observer and interpreter of real life. They render their observation into a painting piece. Some will render it close to the real world, while others put abstractions to it.
To improve on the craftmanship, you need to improve both the making and the thinking. Not only the making. Not only how to make things, but analyze the Why.
Author: Vincent Van Gogh – A. View of Royal Road, Ramsgate (F Juv. XXVII / JH Juv. 5), enclosed drawing
Look at this sketch that Vincent Van Gogh put on his letter to his brother, Theo. He is observing the neighborhood. This drawing is a view from the school window where the boys stand and watch their parents going back to the station after a visit. Will this be a masterpiece of his work? Well, maybe not. But, surely, this observation contributes to his ability to render the final painting.
When we compose a high-fidelity screen, we are making.
When we scribble on the paper, we are thinking.
I exaggerate the separation there. In reality, a product designer will be switching between making and thinking unconsciously. But I want to emphasize the importance and the connection of both.
You should start to analyze intentionally. Then your craft will be more intentional.
If you use another digital product and you’re not analyzing. You’re missing a huge chance to improve your craft. Try to analyze things around you. Why does this door handle confusing? Why does this theme park is fun despite the long line? Why does this layout looks so inviting? Why does connecting AirPod is so effortless? Why does this application so irritating?
A strong product designer must analyze her craft and her surrounding continuously.