Great Questions Lead to Great Design: A Guide to the Design Thinking Process

Great designers help teams and stakeholders make better decisions by using questions to identify opportunities, reveal underlying needs, and understand user context.

James Dyson, having been inspired by a centrifuge used to separate paint particles from the air, came up with the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1983 after famously going through 5,127 prototypes—the epitome of design thinking. He must have asked a lot of questions along the way…

Designers face tough problems every day—problems that require them to find design solutions that deal with business and technical constraints while also addressing user needs. At the same time, the urge to find solutions quickly shouldn’t preclude designers from thoroughly understanding the heart of the problem, as well as the user context, from the outset.

The critical “investigative phase” should not be bypassed—it is a vital component in the design-thinking process. It is where carefully formulated questions reveal themselves as a great way to approach a design problem even before designers start “designing.”

Questions are a genuine expression of our curiosity and interest in something. They are the means by which people seek meaning in the surrounding world and often trigger our willingness to explore.

When designers are faced with a problem, their brain is programmed to find a good enough solution right away and act upon it. However, it is important to note that those willing to deliver successful products and services must face the problems and build a deeper understanding of them in order to come up with valuable insights.

By knowing how questions work and how to use them cleverly, designers can unleash the potential of good questions to build understanding, trigger the imagination, and foster collaboration.

Why Designers Don’t Ask Questions

Designers typically operate in fast-moving environments which demand focusing on quick solutions and delivery. In that context, questions like “Why do we need to solve that problem?” or “How did you notice this problem?” which may lead to a better understanding of the underlying causes and needs, are seen as interruptions that slow down the process.

While quick wins are OK in some situations, designers also have the responsibility to help teams establish direction and not waste valuable resources working—no matter how fast—on the wrong problems.

Designers are like detectives; they need information from many different sources in order to resolve their cases. And what is a key skill that good detectives have? Asking smart questions that help them clarify the case, solve the puzzle and find the truth.

Why Don’t Designers Ask Questions as Often as They Should?

Some designers are afraid of annoying people. When someone presents a new idea or solution to the team, questions that reveal weaknesses or uncovered areas can make owners feel uncomfortable. They thought they had it all figured out, and suddenly, there’s an element of uncertainty introduced into the picture.

They realize there is more to think about than they had expected, so they look at the designer as an “annoyance.” Designers should make it clear that they are not there to annoy people or slow down the process unnecessarily but to help the team build better products; consequently, their feedback should be seen as a valuable contribution and a crucial part of a prudent design process.

A lot of people think of designers at an execution level—decisions are made by technology, business, and marketing teams while designers are there to simply execute commands. But designers also have the responsibility to expose the value of design at a strategic level.

Some designers lack the confidence and training—both to ask good questions and to do it in a way that clearly reveals their will to help and collaborate. As everything in life, asking good questions is a matter of training. The more you do it, the better you get at it. One of the purposes of this article is to provide designers with some ideas that will help them get started in the art of asking good questions.

Types of Effective Questions for Designers

A good question is the one that lets you obtain the typequality, and quantity of information you need. In order to do so, designers have to decide both the type of questions they use and the way they formulate them.

Here are some basic but very effective types:

Open-ended questions encourage people to reflect and reveal what’s important for them. They allow people to freely expand on what is comfortable for them, rather than justifying their thoughts. Open-ended questions tend to explore possibilities, feelings, and the reasons why. Michael J. Marquardt, author of Leading with questions, describes some types of open-ended questions:

  • Explorative questions force expansion on new points of view and uncovered areas. Have you thought of…?
  • Affective questions reveal people’s feelings about something. How do you feel about…?
  • Reflective questions encourage more elaboration. What do you think causes…?
  • Probing questions invite a deeper examination. Can you describe how…?
  • Analytical questions look for the roots of a problem. What are the causes of…?
  • Clarifying questions help align and avoid misunderstandings. So, you mean that..?

Closed questions call for specific answers—usually yes or no—or they force the respondent to select an answer from a given set, or to agree or disagree with a statement. Closed questions tend to focus on facts—what, when, where—and are usually easy to answer. For example: “Where were you born? How many miles do you drive a month?”

The Anatomy of a Good Question

good question doesn’t depend just on the type of question it is, but also on how you frame it. The form of a question is part of its function. Good questions should be framed under these principles:

Good questions should empower. Disempowering questions focus on why the person did not succeed, which puts that person in a defensive mode. Empowering questions are asked from trust—they get people to think and find their own answers, which transfers ownership and develops self-responsibility.

For example, when giving feedback, instead of just saying “I don’t think this would work,” you could ask, “What other options have you explored, and why did you choose this one?”

Good questions should challenge assumptions. They should help clarify the situation and cause individuals, teams, and organizations to explore the methods, processes, and conventions that drive their actions.

Good questions should cause the person to stretch. They should encourage reflection and help people go beyond the obvious. Good questions motivate people to take things to the next level. For example, when discussing with technology teams, instead of asking, “Can you do this?” you could ask, “Supposing this is the way to go, what would you need to have or eliminate in order to accomplish this?”

Good questions should encourage breakthrough thinking. Good questions open up new possibilities. They involve people in divergent thought processes that lead to new perspectives. For example, when designing a new login screen, instead of just asking, “How could we make the login process faster?” you could ask, “How could we deliver value to our users without them having to log in?”

The Setup for Good Questions

Even if you choose the right type of question and you frame it correctly, you need to set the stage in order for others to understand why you are asking questions and what for. Designers are not judges—they are facilitators that provide a context for the information to flow as part of the design thinking framework and help everyone make informed decisions.

Here is a process that helps accomplish that:

Adopt a learner mindset. Our mindset frames how we see the world. A learner is optimistic and seeks understanding as a way to guide their actions. Be curious, attentive, and receptive. You are not a judge, you are a designer who needs to investigate the problem more deeply in order to make decisions, so let people know that.

Find the right people to ask. Learn who can help you the most and be sure you can count on them: adapt to their schedule, look for the best moment to get them on board and engage them in your project.

Set the stage. Warm up. Provide context and get people to feel comfortable in order for them to be open and ready.

Ask your questions. Sometimes, you just want people to express their thoughts on something. Other times, you want to ask specific questions even if you know it will be unpleasant for them. If you really need answers to those, set the stage properly and ask them anyway.

Dig deeper. Ask follow-up questions in order to get deeper information and clarify that everyone understands the same thing. Use the power of silence—just keep silent, look people in the eye, and nod—so they can expand on their thoughts and ideas without interruption.

How Can Asking Good Questions Build Understanding?

Good questions challenge the status quo, forcing people to pay attention to what’s really going on. They help discover how things work, who’s involved, and how everything relates. Questions help create a clear map of the situation.

Find the root of the problem. Some designers focus on symptoms and simply provide solutions for them. Great designers focus on understanding the origin of those symptoms in order to make a good diagnosis.

Challenge assumptions. Individuals, teams, and organizations have their own habits and processes. Good questions help detect their biases and find new perspectives and points of view.

Understanding context. Designers use different mapping techniques in order to get a clear picture of how the whole system works. They use ethnography and empathy to understand people’s behaviors and mental models. Good questions help gain valuable insights and uncover social, economic, or cultural patterns that take place in a particular context.

Questioning Techniques That Build a Deeper Understanding

The 5 Whys

This method helps you get a deeper understanding of the root causes and underlying beliefs and motivations of people. It’s at the heart of a proper design thinking process. Sakichi Toyoda, one of the fathers of the Japanese industrial revolution, developed the technique in the 1930s. Here’s how to apply it:

  1. People don’t buy products in our online store. – Why?
  2. Because they don’t complete the purchase, they drop off. – Why?
  3. Because they tend to abandon the shopping cart. – Why?
  4. Because the cart is where we show shipping details and they think 10 days is too long. – Why?
  5. Because people buy our product as a gift to someone just a couple of days before the gifting date. 10 days is too long for shipping.

By question five, product designers most likely got closer to the root of the problem and shed light on new approaches to consider that weren’t necessarily the original, “assumed” problem. For a deeper description on the 5 Whys Method, visit Mindtools.

Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How

This is another framework that can be used in order to analyze and get a deeper understanding of the situation and context. Whenever you face a problem, asking these questions will help you get a clear view of the current situation, map critical pain points, and come up with possible ways of taking concrete action that will solve the problem:

  • Who interferes with the process in the situation? Users, stakeholders, suppliers, clients, team…
  • What elements compose the situation? Actions, behaviors, elements, tools…
  • Where does it happen? Geographically, culturally, socially, economically…
  • When does this occur? Past, present, future, situational context (when I’m in a rush), frequency…
  • Why does this happen? Causes, constraints, needs, motivations…
  • How is the situation created? Processes, metrics, results…

How Can Designers Trigger the Imagination by Asking Great Questions?

Great questions have the power to transport us to unimagined scenarios and transform the way we see reality. Questions like, “How would this be in 2050?” lead us to a mindset where our current constraints and biases are no longer valid, forcing us to operate under new paradigms.

When we reframe a situation with questions like, “What would happen if all humans were blind?” we are challenging the set of beliefs and values that we use when inferring meaning, so our view of the situation can change dramatically. When people see things from new perspectives, innovation happens.

Questioning Techniques That Can Trigger the Imagination

There are some question starters that will help you frame your questions in a way that encourages imagination and causes people to develop new perspectives:

  • What if…?
  • How would it be different if…?
  • Suppose that…?
  • What if we knew…?
  • What would change if…?
  • What other way could we…?

How Can Designers Foster Collaboration by Asking Great Questions?

Questions are also a good way to help teammates identify critical points in their designs and find stronger arguments for their decisions. Through intelligent and constructive feedback, the whole team can benefit from everyone’s point of view and area of expertise.

Instead of asking “Isn’t that interaction a bit awkward?” which could make people defensive, great designers ask questions like, “What were other options you considered, and why did you choose this one?” You’ll help people reflect on their work, explain the reasons why, and see questions as a gift.

Questions build respect and show interest in others’ feelings and thoughts. They help align team members, clarify goals, and give people a sense of responsibility and ownership.

Questions also improve self-awareness and develop better listening and greater understanding capabilities. When you ask your teammates questions, you learn about how they think, what they believe in, how they feel in certain situations, etc. It helps build solid links with the team.

Questioning Techniques That Foster Collaboration

As part of a design thinking exercise, there are some question starters that will help frame questions in a way that builds trust and encourages team collaboration:

  • How do you feel about…?
  • How would you describe…?
  • How could we…?
  • What help do we need in order to…?

The Design Thinking Process Using Great Questions

Questioning is a powerful tool that every designer should be able to use fluently. As part of a design thinking process, questions can help understand a situation and get valuable insights. They can also foster creativity and innovation within an organization, and can help teams align and unite.

Asking questions and letting the information flow is essential for growth as an individual and as an organization. But a questioning culture also requires an atmosphere of trust and responsibility, where everyone’s wisdom and capabilities are respected and promoted.

As a designer, ask questions and make sure everyone understands that they come from genuine curiosity and a desire to explore product design more deeply, with the aim of coming up with the best design solution.


[– This article was originally posted on the Toptal blog, republished with permission –]


How to Work with the WordPress Database: 11+ Useful SQL Queries

One of the best things about WordPress is how easy it makes it for anyone to have a great looking and functional website without any coding knowledge. It’s perfectly possible to set up a website from scratch, getting it looking exactly how you want it to, and doing whatever you want it to, without writing a line of code. However…. Continue Reading

The post How to Work with the WordPress Database: 11+ Useful SQL Queries is written by Rachel Adnyana and appeared first on WPKube.

The UX of Sound: Designing Audio Experiences

For many of us, sound is an essential part of everyday living. Our day starts with a sound of alarm clock and ends with the subtle click of light switcher; sound is all around us during the day, we listen to our favorite music or receive vital information such as news reports on the radio as we drive to work.

But what about the digital products we use on a regular basis? When we describe apps and websites, we usually mean how they look, not how they sound. The design industry has always focussed more on the visual experience and less on the auditory experience. But audio can be just as important to the user experience as visuals. A proper implementation of sound can bring great value to the users, potentially making a more wholesome user experience beyond what we can see.

Sound can be a very powerful and useful tool when applied appropriately. There are a few instances when designing with audio is especially important.

1. Feedback

Traditionally audio is used as a feedback mechanism when users interact with devices. In the most basic form, it can be an audio feedback when the user pushes a button. This mechanism is used in many everyday devices, such as mobile phones, cars, toys, and gadgets.

When a user presses a number key on an iPhone dial pad, the phone will play a sound and show the number being pressed.

There is excellent potential for sound in designing for wearables and IoT devices. Many devices have limited or even no screen, and this makes sound the best option to provide feedback for users.

2. Notifications and Warnings

It’s difficult to dismiss sound when you hear it. Sound takes users out of their context and demands immediate attention. This property can be used when designing interfaces.

Sound is used to help walk users through critical situations

Outside of the digital world, a very good example would be the “ding” of microwaves that announces when the food is ready. In the digital world, we often hear “ding” when receiving a message.

Sound is used to help walk users through critical situations or even to avoid such situations altogether. It can be a good assistant when a user takes action. For example, a sound of a parking-assist feature can tell a driver that they are getting too close to an obstacle.

Or it might remind you to change your device when the battery is almost empty. When my phone runs low on battery, it politely reminds me to charge it.

Audio notifications are particularly useful when looking at the screen is not possible or not desirable. One typical example is a voice notifications in-car navigation system. They help focus user attention on what’s really important, driving.

Speaking of wearables, sound can be used not only as a feedback but also as a notification. For example, a fitness tracker can remind users to perform daily tasks or record their blood pressure. Such notifications are subtle audio reminders that can be essential in helping people achieve their fitness goals.

3. Branding

Audio can also be used for branding purposes, you can apply a unique sound and music to convey a brand’s essence. Companies like Apple and Microsoft have their own branding sound that helps us identify the brand just by listening to them.

4. Personalization

Audio can…build an emotional connection with a product

Audio can also create a more personalized product for users, helping them to build an emotional connection with a product. One good example is Apple’s Siri — the system learns its user’s name and uses it in its replies, adding a personal connection to the interaction. Audio gives user a more human touch to the experience.

5. Accessible Interfaces

Accessible design is good design. Audio is a powerful tool for designing experiences for accessibility. In following cases designing with audio becomes a necessity, not just an afterthought: If elderly people represent a majority of your users. Audio feedback provides a vital form of confirmation for people who are used to hardware keyboards or not familiar with touchscreen technology; Audio is especially important for people who have poor eyesight and better perceive information at the hearing.

At the same time, audio should not be used as a sole identifier of instruction or action. Design teams should be familiar with WCAG2 guidelines and remember to consider assistive technology when building.

2 Things To Consider When Designing With Audio

Designing with audio brings up two important considerations: when to use sound and what kind of sound to choose?

Only Use Sound When it Helps

It’s difficult to advocate designing with audio without first understanding the problems that many users face when encountering sound on the web and in mobile apps. The problem of disruption and annoyance. Our world is already a noisy one, and when your app or website uses unnecessary sound effects it makes things even worse:

  • Unexpected sound or music is a primary negative outcome most users commonly associate with audio content. An unexpected introduction of sound not only disrupts but it can ruin the experience for users. Just imagine that you’re browsing websites while sitting on a train full of people and the website you visit starts playing loud music from device speakers. Most probably you’ll leave the site immediately.
  • Unwanted sound can be intrusive and annoying. If you remember the early 2000s you’re probably familiar with AOL’s email notification “You’ve got mail.” This notification is an excellent example of incredibly annoying audio.

Knowing how to present audio content the right way to users requires an intimate understanding of the target audience, their expectations, needs, and context in which they interact with a product.

Choose the right type of audio

Not only is it important to find a case (or cases) where sound can enhance the user experience it’s also important to find a proper sound.

It’s critical that sound is designed in such a way that the user intuitively knows what it means. One good example can be found in Messages app for iOS. When users send a text message the sound that confirms sending clearly represent the action by suggesting movement away from the user.


20 Best New Portfolio Sites, December 2017

Jingle those bells, people! It’s December, and Santa brought you portfolio sites. This month’s theme generally seems to be minimalism with a splash of geometric decoration. I mean, there are quite a few design styles represented here, but I’m starting to spot a new/old trend coming on.

Well hey, a new trend would be just in time for January. Anyway, have a scroll down the page, and enjoy.

Note: I’m judging these sites by how good they look to me. If they’re creative and original, or classic but really well-done, it’s all good to me. Sometimes, UX and accessibility suffer. For example, many of these sites depend on JavaScript to display their content at all; this is a Bad Idea (TM), kids. If you find an idea you like and want to adapt to your own site, remember to implement it responsibly.

Nathan Riley

Nathan Riley brings us a small, classically dark website with some beautiful background effects. It’s just these effects that make the stylish-yet-familiar layout pop.

Unfortunately, they’ll be all but invisible on un-calibrated screens. Even so, the important stuff stands out, and looks just plain good.

Oh, last complaint: the contact info could and should be way more prominent.


Rainfall has taken a fairly common modern minimalist design, and made it stand out by mastering the art of going from colorful to monochromatic again almost seamlessly. The transition from one color theme to another feels nearly seamless.

Nick Vandermolen

Nick Vandermolen’s portfolio is dark, classy, and generally gorgeous. It also can’t decide whether it wants to be a magazine or a PowerPoint presentation. Okay, I’m kidding. Mostly.

You can clearly see the influence of both of those media formats in the general layout and aesthetic sensibilities. Even so, the experience is coherent and pretty. Also, the navigation is kind of what thirty percent of web designers were trying to do with frames in 2003. It’s a real trip.


Mensch is an oddity that just barely sits on this side of the “portfolio” category. You see, it’s a consultancy/team building company with a focus on making the world a better place. Portfolio items tend to be things like “We developed a program to help former child soldiers become small business owners.”

If it weren’t for those portfolio items, however, it would just be a brochure site. And visually, it looks like one. It’s all white space and clean lines, with just a splash of background video.


Vintage is on the list largely for the visuals. Not only is it just plain stylish with its geometric theme, the animations have actually managed to impress me a bit. That’s rare.


Effectlab might be the first Greek website I’ve reviewed. Well, Google Chrome tells me it’s Greek, anyway. It’s all Gre… I’m not going to make that joke.

Anyway, the Greek type looks darned beautiful. It’s so beautiful, I’d say it takes the stylish-if-familiar layout to another level. The light graphical and animated touches are great, too.

Zachary Johnson

Zachary Johnson has what is perhaps the penultimate evolution of the modern minimalist layout. It’s clean, it’s sexy, it’s smooth. I love the way he used pastels.

My only criticism would be the part where his text goes over his actual work. I have to admit, with the rest of the site doing so well, that’s just puzzling. We have big screens, and the people who have small screens are used to scrolling. Let us read the text.

Dixon & Moe

Dixon & Moe is one more site on this list that embraces the “minimalism plus geometry” theme. In this case, the minimalism borders on brutalism, but is saved by good typography and white space.

It’s also got little touches that make it look a bit like, I dunno… a technical manual? A set of diagrams? Like, all of the major elements on each page are given a letter/number designation. Go take a look. It’s cool.


Kuudes is a fantastic example of the beauty of plain old organization. There’s a minimum of fancy tricks on this site, with most of the effort going in to just organizing a fair amount of information (for a portfolio site).

Léo Guenoun

Léo Guenoun’s portfolio is very, very minimalist. Everything is text until you click your way into a portfolio piece. Then it’s pretty much just images. I’m sensing a theme, here.

Fore Design

Fore Design embraces textbook modern design, and thus joins this month’s minimalism plus geometry club. My favorite bits of the site would have to be the case studies, and the design of the blog articles on desktop screens.

They also seem to make a point of using real people’s names where they can. Whether it’s on their team page (duh), in their portfolio pieces, or on their blog, they seem to emphasize a human connection when and where they can.

Anne Thai

Anne Thai embraces the classic white space and huge text style of site. She has to, because this is possibly the single longest one-page portfolio I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, it comes with two sets of navigation. Her work is presented artfully, and color is used to let you know you’re looking at a new project in a way that makes sense.

Skinn Branding Agency

Skinn brings us more classic white space and huge text. It’s not terribly original, but it is well-done. Trigger warning for people who like headings and titles to be capitalized. This site mostly doesn’t do that…

Maciej Herbert Rodzik

Maciej Herbert Rodzik brings us back a few months to the days of post minimalism, but just a little. Aside from a little asymmetry and element overlapping, this one is simplicity itself.

It’s also one of the few sites that overlaps the project title with the project images that doesn’t overwhelmingly impact readability. I approve.

Zeus Jones

Zeus Jones wins the award for being the second site on this list to have the initials “ZJ”. It’s a branding agency, and the site sure as heck looks like it. Every part of the otherwise fairly standard design has clearly been made to fit a theme. Note the just plain beautiful typography.


Monopo’s site is perhaps a bit presentation-effect-heavy for my taste; but I love their use of color. Also, I must admit that anyone who can make circles work as a design theme automatically gets points from me.

With the web being as “box-shaped” as it is, I can always appreciate making a theme out of any other shape.

Rowan Made

Rowan Made is, without mincing words, a fairly typical example of hipster minimalism. It’s all about that artisanal feeling. Nonetheless, it is perhaps one of the finer examples of hipster minimalism that I’ve seen in a while. Plus, I’m a sucker for well-crafted typography on pretty much any site.

I’d only try to make the text headings stand out a bit more, maybe. The headings are styles in a way that assumes the reader is going to be reading as opposed to skimming. Never make that assumption.

Studio Mast

Studio Mast spices up a fairly simple layout with little touches that are reminiscent of an art gallery. This idea is represented everything from the general aesthetic style, to the hover effects on images, to the controls on the home page slideshow.

It’s a subtle way of calling your own work art without looking too pretentious. It’s a clever touch that doesn’t get in the way of usability. I like that kind of clever.

Maksim Karalevich

Maksim Karalevich’s site is all minimalist and full of… not random geometric shapes. Cool. In fact, there’s an animated signature on the home page. Even more cool. Another thing I quite like is the way some elements are styled to make the whole thing look like a gigantic chat log. It’s not something you see very often.

Andy H. Wei

Andy Wei brings us full circle with more of that minimalism and random geometry combo in a lovely near monochromatic site that lets his paintings have all the color. There’s a hint of post-minimalism here and there, but it’s used for emphasis, which I really like.

My favorite bit has got to be the little graphical flourishes. They’re all painting-themed, so it sets exactly the right mood.


Popular Design News of the Week: November 27, 2017 – December 3, 2017

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

Apple’s Homepage Design


How to Use Visual Hierarchy in Web Design


Learn CSS Grid in 5 Minutes


The 20 Biggest Logos of 2017


3 Best Form Design Practices for your Design Process


Sliders in Web Design: To Use or not to Use?


The Web Design Trends of 2017


Why Flutter will Take Off in 2018


The Design Directory


A Tool to Design Conversational Interfaces


Skeuomorphic Design — A Controversial UX Approach that is Making a Comeback


Designers, it’s Time to Move Slowly and Fix Things


Harmony – A Peaceful Webpage to Help You Chill Out When You Need to


The Death of Net Neutrality Could Be the End of Bitcoin


The Logos that Have Become Legends


Here’s What Happens When You do 100 Days of Ui Challenges


Smart New Photoshop CC Tool Detects Objects with One Click


2018’s UX Designer Salary Forecast


Twisti – Give your Twitter Feed Superpowers


Roadtrippers 4.0 – The Only Map Built for Travelers


Creatives Aren’t Backing the New Kickstarter Logo


Design Systems Handbook


9 Tools to Make Graphic Design Easier in 2018


Ways to Set Yourself up for a WordPress Disaster


Meet the Man Who Deactivated Trump’s Twitter Account for 11 Minutes


Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.


Comics of the Week #417

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

Painful experience


Time to upgrade


Just say “no”

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…


30 Creative Gifts for Designers, Christmas 2017

It’s that time of year again: The season of peace, goodwill and ‘what can I possibly get Eric/Joanna/Clare/Michael/insert-name’. It’s the first day of advent, and there are just 19 shopping days left until Christmas!

But never fear, if you’re struggling to find the perfect gifts for the designers in your life, we have some creative suggestions for you. Whether you’re looking for the office secret santa, or your very significant other, we’ve got you covered…

Under $25

VR Headset: V2 Cardboard VR Headset ($7.99)

For someone you like, but don’t love enough for an Oculus Rift. This headset will take iPhones and Android devices with screens up to 6”, with Google’s Cardboard app.

Book: Failed It By Erik Kessels (from $11.38)

With Failed It, Erik Kessels of KesselsKramer, proves that failure can be a good thing, and having the courage to risk failure can ultimately lead to better work.

Slippers:  SPRZ NY Eames Room Shoes ($14.90)

Mid-century modern gets wearable. Uniqlo’s SPRZ NY Eames collection also includes t-shirts and throws.

T-Shirt: James Victore T-Shirt (from $11)

A little bit of Victore motivation never goes amiss. Choose from a range of designs and t-shirt options. Some designs are also available on sweatshirts, hoodies and even shower curtains among other products.

Mini Tree: Lovi Spruce Tree 14cm (approx. $17)

The perfect desktop Christmas tree. It comes in several different colors. Decorations are also available.

Game: Eames Memory Game (approx. $17.50)

For anyone who can’t face the annual family Trivial Pursuit battle again, this is a great alternative.

Notebook: Customized Moleskine (from $18)

It’s not a “gifts for designers” list without something from Moleskine. These notebooks are customized by artists, and could just inspire the recipient to create their own versions.

Power Bank: UO_TUNE_IN Portable Power Bank ($24)

A handy, stylish extra bit of juice for Android and Apple phones.

$25 – $50

Gift Cards: A Book Apart Gift Cards ($25, $50, and $100)

Sometimes, letting someone choose what they really want proves it’s the thought that counts.

Poster: Alphabeast Poster ($30)

For the animal loving typophile. As a feel good bonus, 100% of profits from these prints go to conservation charity Defenders of Wildlife.

Desk Organizer: Concrete Planter and Pen Holder ($30)

A great idea for someone who likes a tidy desk, with the added health benefits that plants provide.

There’s a smaller one for $20 too.

Book: Writing & Illuminating & Lettering By Edward Johnston (approx. $33)

This edition designed by Paul Felton and published in 2016 by D&B Books, is available through the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft,  in the small Sussex village where Johnston lived from 1912 until his death in 1944.

Phone Case: Moleskine iPhone Cover ($34.95)

For the Moleskine afficionado, their iPhone can match the iconic notebook.

Book: The Art of Looking Sideways By Alan Fletcher (from $36.29)

From one of the greats of graphic design, this book is ‘the ultimate guide to visual awareness’.

Charging Station: Converge Pop Charging Station ($39)

This charging station can take up to four devices at one go, with cables neatly tucked away, and looks stylish while doing it.

Print: Barbican Towers (approx. $47)

Know a designer who went for it with the Brutalist trend? This is the print for them: the Barbican estate in London is one of the foremost examples of Brutalist architecture.

Wire Wall Grid: Urban Outfitters ($49)

A nice alternative to a pin board, the wall grid could be used for decoration, or as a mood board. There are other sizes and colors available.

‘Chair’: Sitpack portable seat ($54.69)

A great gift for anyone who likes to take their sketchbook outside, or who just wants to stop being hunched over a low desk all day.

Desk Organizer: Lexon Liquid Station ($60)

Beautiful and functional desk organizer, what every designer strives for.

Umbrella: Weatherman Umbrella ($65)

These smart umbrellas come with a tracker, and with an app which reminds its owner to take it, but only if it’s going to rain.

Mug: Ember Ceramic Smart Mug ($79.95)

This mug keeps the drink inside it at the precise temperature it has been set to, between 120°F and 145°F.

Arduino: Arduino Starter Kit ($87.90)

Great for tinkerers, or those who want to expand their coding horizons to the physical world.

Subscription: Headspace (1 month $12.99, 1 year $95.88, 2 years $167.67)

Guided meditations, including courses to help with creativity and productivity.

Print: Move Fast & Get S**t Done, by Erik Spiekermann (approx. $115.50)

A limited run of 50 of the third edition of this motivational poster by one of the gods of type.

Camera: Polaroid 600 Starter Pack ($175)

Polaroid cameras have sparked so much creative talent over the years, give one to the designer in your life and see what they can do with it.

Watch: Braun For Dezeen Limited Edition Watch (approx. $200)

Created in partnership with Dezeen, there are only 250 of this version of a design classic.

Over $200

Lamp: Artemide Demetra Micro (from $243.75)

A gorgeous, and very flexible task light designed by Naoto Fukasawa for Artemide. Will make working into the small hours more pleasant.

Calendar: Perpetuum Calendar by Othr ($355 / $380)

Yes, nearly $400 for a calendar does seem a bit much, but it is a beautiful object and is intended to last forever.

Bag: Super Bag Briefcase ($399)

Possibly the most stylish briefcase/laptop bag ever. Looks good enough to double as a handbag for even the most chic of lunches, dahling.

Tablet: reMarkable Paper Tablet ($599)

An innovative alternative to a standard tablet, the reMarkable has a paper like surface designed for writing, sketching and reading.