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Why designers are a lot like doctors

Why designers are a lot like doctors

While it might appear that designers and doctors have very little in common, in practice, they’re more similar than you’d think. No, designers can’t perform surgery or prescribe drugs - but we both uncover and solve maladies - one physical the other fiscal.

Consultation and examination

Doctor or designer, both will generally sit with the “patient” and listen as they describe their symptoms. Then a series of diagnostic questions and various examinations and testing will commence. Doctors might draw blood to see if there’s an underlying pathology. Designers will probably review existing marketing materials. Doctors will investigate environmental conditions while designers will perform competitive analysis.

Problem Diagnosis

After consultation, testing, and research in most scenarios a diagnosis can be rendered. A doctor might find a pathogen while a designer might uncover a market disruptor. Both are infectious and likely to cause problems that must be dealt with promptly. There might be an injury - a broken bone or a failed product? Or maybe it’s allergies? Perhaps hay fever or a competitor making a come back that’s the underlying irritant.

Prescription and treatment

Regardless of the sickness, once a problem is identified, it can be treated. Doctors will prescribe medication or therapy that will be administered over a period of time. Likewise, designers will recommend marketing campaigns that are implemented pragmatically. Moreover, both will monitor the overall effectiveness of the treatment and adjust as necessary.

Calling in a specialist

Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to call in a specialist. After all, a large portion of doctors are general practitioners - the body is a complex, intertwined network of systems. So other doctors specialize in treating specific areas. Similarly, designers can often dabble in lots of areas, but often call in colleagues or specialists when necessary. Your family doctor is unlikely to perform surgery. Just like your print designer is unlikely to handle heavy web development and programming. Both are specialists that work with the original to reach a desired outcome.

Wellness care

Finally, a good doctor will see you regularly to make sure you’re staying in good health. Your designer will probably do this as well - if not more frequently. After all, to keep you or your bottom-line healthy it’s important to have check-ups. That way, if you’ve got a problem developing, you can find it, diagnose it, and fix it before it become terminal.

OK, perhaps my metaphor stretched the boundaries a bit. But the process designers and doctors go through to uncover a problem is fairly similar: consultation, examination, testing, diagnosis, and then treatment and monitoring. And the long-term effects can be similar. A good relationship with your doctor or designer can keep you or your business healthier overall.

Jan 22, 2013
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There are 1 comments for this entry. Leave a comment below »


Very thoughtfully written! I enjoyed because I work in the medical marketing environment.

Pam Maple-Steinmetz
Mar 21, 2013


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