Why Have You Stopped Asking Questions?

Often times, it feels as though design is less about the solutions delivered and more about the questions asked—or may I suggest, the integrity of design more often lies in or is the derivative of inquiry. With such claim, I pose the question: Are you asking yourself questions? Asking yourself questions is equally as integral to the process as asking your client questions.

In regards to working with clients, the role of designer often begins as that of a detective. Who are you? What is your company? What is your role at that company? What are you inquiring about? What is your timeline? What is your budget? These basic questions go on to establish who, what, where, when, why, and how—or at least they lay the foundation for such.

Continuing further, you likely have a questionnaire. The questionnaire is intended to dig deeper. The questionnaire is intended to get past the surface level of their company and their project. The questionnaire is intended to uncover potential and create a platform for further inquiry. The questionnaire is often times the holy grail of the project and the foundation on which everything is built.

The questionnaire is of such high importance because it serves as a source of insight, but it must be stated that the questionnaire and the insight are so valuable because they’re the result of asking questions. The process of asking questions is more important than the answers you receive.

Why is that? Because the process of inquiry is instantly revealing. Why is it instantly revealing? Because in just a few questions you can determine whether or not someone is worth working with? Why is that important? Because when you weed out the people that aren’t interested in working with you and fail to really fill out your questionnaire, you can instead focus on the people that are extremely invested? Why? Because focusing on the people that are invested in the process are more inclined to trust you. Why? Because when someone who is invested and trusts you, you’re able to continue asking questions and dig even deeper. Why? Because… Why? Because… Why?

You see why I’m doing this? Do you see the process of inquiry to myself? Do you see the childlike fashion in which I persistently ask questions?

The more questions you ask, the more you will know. I’m going to reiterate that one more time: the more questions you ask, the more you will know. Did you notice how I said “you will know” rather “you can know?” Asking questions isn’t a matter of luck, the more you ask the more you will know—the process yields inevitable results.

The problem is that you probably stop asking questions after you receive the questionnaire. You’ve already asked the questions you want to ask, so why ask more? Imagine meeting someone, asking how they’re doing, asking what they enjoy doing, and then stopping all further questions. Does this show that you’re interested in them? Is that how you engage in a meaningful conversation?

There are two things you should pull from this: asking your client questions does not stop after you’ve received the questionnaire, and secondly, you need to be asking yourself questions.

Nearly every project I work on, article I write, piece of art I create, they all begin with asking myself questions. When I’m beginning a branding project, I literally start with creating a document for asking myself questions. Many times the questions are rhetorical and I never explicitly answer them. Sometimes I’m asking myself legitimate and straightforward questions and I will answer them. I ask myself questions because the more questions I ask the more I will know.

As an example, here are some questions I had asked myself whilst working on a kid’s menu for a restaurant a few years back:

What age of kids likely order from the kid’s menu? 12 and younger?

Classic American Theme—What emulates this? The American Dream? American Manifesto? The American Dream is centered around icon images, possessions and a monetary/materialistic standards of success. How can this be changed to promote positive living achieved through pursuing happiness as a lifestyle rather than a destination?

Is the answer to the question above achieved through content, imagery, or choice of games?

How can games be changed to spark creative thinking? How can games become more innovative? How can they be changed to create more involvement?

“Hangman” is based on if you lose then a man is hung. Following the idea that, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” as Thomas Edison has stated, how can Hangman embody this concept?

Adults are scared of art. How can we make them not scared? How can we bridge the gap between ages in terms of creativity? Adults and children need to see themselves on the same level.

Children and adults need an experience worth remembering outside of what they eat.

What aspects can be modernized and what parts should remain traditional?

It was the process of asking questions which led to better questions which led to thinking differently which led back to other questions which led to some really great solutions and ideas.

Could you imagine a detective receiving the evidence from a crime scene then never asking a single question after that? I mean, they already have their evidence from the crime scene, why ask any additional questions, right? Of course, that doesn’t happen, that’d be silly. But is it the same with you? Do you continue to ask your client and yourself questions throughout the project? Questions, even when left unanswered, are more revealing and more powerful than we ever anticipate. But why?