Thursday, July 29, 2004
The Effect of Personality on Design
I'm fascinated by the Myers-Briggs personality test and the resulting personality types. Perhaps it's my fondness for patterns. Perhaps it's my own personality type: INTJ aka The Mastermind (although I'm only marginally I and T). Whatever it is, I enjoy thinking about them and figuring out where people lie on their spectrums.
When you find out your personality type, it's also supposed to suggest what careers you might enjoy. I, for example, might enjoy being a dentist, military leader, or judge. Ummm...oook. Supposedly, the "ideal" personality types for a designer are Inventors (ENTP) and Architects (INTP), although this chart puts designers in with us Masterminds.
Now, I've been around quite a few designers, and although I'm sure we all share some personality traits in common (I'd imagine that an N (for iNtuitive) is pretty essential), there's a pretty broad range of personality types. What's interesting to ponder is how those personalities affect the products we create. Give two designers the same problem and you'll likely get (at least) two different solutions. How much of those solutions are derived from our personalities, which shape how we view and interact with the world? Are the products of a designer who's more F (Feeling) more emotional than those of one who is more T (Thinking)? Are designers who perceive (P) able to come up with a broader set of solutions than those who judge (J)? Looking at, say, Michael Graves' products for Target, I'd guess he was an ENFP. But is that his personality, or the personality (ethos) of the products themselves? Or is it some of both? Confusing the matter further are the brand "personalities" of the companies we work for. If Graves had designed his line for, say, Neiman Marcus, I imagine they would be quite different. But would they retain some of his character, his personality?
I would think it difficult (and probably not desirable) to divorce a designer's personality from the things she makes. (Although unfortunately not impossible: this is one of the issues with designing by committee.) And just as there are few "correct" solutions in design, there probably isn't a "correct" personality type for designers. What's more important is that whatever the personality, that some of it make its way into our products. Some trace, some veneer of our humanity as designers needs to come through lest the products we make become alien to us--a real possibility in this age of smart machines and digital forms. Even though we may use everything from computers to factories to manufacture our designs, they are still our designs, made by humans. The trick is to keep some of what is human throughout the design process: to retain some life, some personality, be it E or I, N or S, T or F, P or J, in the things we create.
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