Clear Thinking in Design

June 5, 2024
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Applying Principles from "The Art of Thinking Clearly" by Rolf Dobelli to Design

The Power of Clear Thinking in Design

Design is all about solving problems and communicating ideas effectively. By using principles from Rolf Dobelli’s "The Art of Thinking Clearly," designers can improve their decision-making process and create more impactful designs. Here’s how some of Dobelli’s key concepts apply to design:

1. Confirmation Bias

Principle: We naturally seek out information that confirms our preconceptions and ignore information that challenges them.

Application: In design, this means we might stick with ideas that aren't the best solution. To counter this, actively seek diverse feedback and be open to changing your mind based on new insights. Use A/B testing to validate your design decisions with real user data instead of just relying on your initial assumptions.

2. The Availability Heuristic

Principle: We judge the probability of events by how easily examples come to mind.

Application: Don’t let the latest design trends overly influence your decisions. Make sure your choices are backed by thorough research and align with the brand’s long-term goals. For instance, when picking a color scheme, consider its psychological and cultural impacts, not just what’s trending.

3. The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Principle: We continue a project because of the time, money, or effort already invested, even when it’s clear the project should be abandoned.

Application: Be ready to scrap designs that aren’t working, no matter how much time you’ve spent on them. Focus on delivering the best possible user experience. Iteration is key in design—don’t be afraid to start over if needed.

4. Social Proof

Principle: We tend to follow the actions of others when making decisions.

Application: Use social proof wisely in your designs. It’s helpful to know what competitors are doing, but don’t blindly copy them. Instead, use testimonials, reviews, and case studies to build trust and credibility with your audience.

5. Anchoring Effect

Principle: We rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered.

Application: Be mindful of initial ideas presented during brainstorming sessions. Encourage a wide range of ideas and avoid letting the first suggestions dominate the conversation. This can lead to more innovative and effective design solutions.

6. Outcome Bias

Principle: We judge the quality of a decision based on its outcome rather than the information available at the time.

Application: Evaluate both the process and the final design. A successful project can sometimes hide a flawed process, while a well-executed process might not always lead to success due to external factors. Reflect on both to improve future projects.

7. Overconfidence Effect

Principle:We overestimate our knowledge and abilities.

Application: Stay humble and open to learning. Design is an ever-evolving field, and continuous education is key. Attend workshops, read industry publications, and seek out mentorship to keep your skills sharp and your mind open.


By integrating these principles from "The Art of Thinking Clearly," designers can avoid common cognitive biases and make more informed decisions. This leads to better designs, more effective communication, and ultimately, more successful projects.

To dive deeper into these concepts and how they can improve your thinking and decision-making, check out Rolf Dobelli’s "The Art of Thinking Clearly." It’s a valuable resource for anyone looking to sharpen their cognitive tools.

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