Intuition as an Argument

I remember a conversation with my professor once. I was, in the Netherlands, a design sophomore. He was my tutor for a project which would last the complete semester. What he said to me would stay with me until now, probably for the rest of my life, and still I wonder how valid it is. The article written by Agre sparked this internal conflict again. My professor said to me “I do not care what your design decisions are, as long they are founded. The best argument you can give for a design if you can truly say that it is because it feels as the correct decision”. How should we use our intuition as an argument for design?

This is a question I truly have difficulty with answering. When answering with the heart and intuition I would say “Yes, of course! It probably is even the best argument there is” when rationally thinking about it I would say “What about theories? User Focus? They do not exist for the mere goal of existing.” This split between feeling and rationality is something everyone faces a lot of times every day, though probably most of the times you would not notice.

My best guess, and knowingly I still keep it large, is like with every problem that the answer is somewhere in the middle. The answer is neither black nor white. It is a gray area somewhere in between. Just how dark this shade of gray is, that is the hard question.

“It is because I feel it is right,” it is the answer I hate most to hear and give. Often, in my opinion, it used as way out. An I-am-too-lazy-to-do-research attitude, in most of the cases not all. I also admit that I have used this argument to evade difficult questions, yet I have also gave this answer truthfully and with my fullest heart behind it. Often I find that choices I have made with my intuition are the best choices I have made, but still we are in an academic environment, this should not be the case.

I keep asking myself how can we make a design good and effective when we do not know all (or most) of the facts, implement the theory that is proofed to work and user tested our product endlessly? What if every designer just followed his heart and how different would we really than be from artists? Design then becomes a form of some kind of self-expression. My educated guess is that this would not work, but neither do you want (with all due respect to both of them) a world of engineers and artists, with nothing in between.

When working with theory long enough it eventually becomes intuition. Just like red means stop, this is not in our genes this is educated to us at a young age. So theory and intuition can go together, at least one can make intuitively use of theory. This all makes this question even more difficult.

I guess could designers find a balance between intuition and theory. Between being an artist and an engineer. This differs with every project and the trick is to find this balance again and again. Yet, I keep wondering is “because it feels the correct thing to do” a valid argument?

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