UX Research/Prototyping, Product Design, Packaging, Branding

Equal Roles throughout Process
Partner — Jes Vachon
9 months


The Blank Page — Every creative has experienced this phenomenon and feared it. The unavoidable truth is that creative blocks are inevitable. It is easy for designers to get distracted by visual inspiration online. Designing for the end user can often get lost in the process. So how do you get out of a creative rut? And how do you design for your user?

Currently there are no creative inspiration tools that focus on being creative and serving the end user. We saw something missing for designers and aspired to have a tool that we could use for ourselves.


To help designers out of a creative rut by getting them off their computers and asking them questions about their design. By focusing the content on the elements & principles of design and the intended audience, it will help designers overcome their creative blocks.

Our Solution

designū is a game of truth or dare for designers in the form of a deck of cards. Without using a screen, it pushes designers to find solutions by focusing on the needs and wants of their intended audience. It is an imaginative and approachable tool to help designers apply innovative problem solving methods & generate new ideas to best serve their audience.

Table of Contents


    • Content Research
    • User Research
    • Competitive Analysis and Resources

Stages and Key Pivot Points

    • Initial Brainstorming of Questions
    • Pivot Point 1: Organizing the Cards by Tones
    • Pivot point 2:
      Art Direction Cards vs Conceptual Cards
    • Pivot Point 3: Establishing Goals for the Card Content
    • The Design Thinking Process
    • Pivot Point 4: Organizing the Cards through Truth or Dare
    • Key Insights from User Testing
    • Evolution of A Question


  • Logo, Type, Colors
  • Final Thoughts


Content Research

We researched Elements of Design, Principles of Design and Gestalt Principles, these guidelines became the foundation of forming our cards.
Elements of Design
    • Refers to the visuals components, such as line, shape, color, and texture, & value.

Principles of Design
    • Refers to the relationship among elements. These include rhythm, balance, unity, scale, hierarchy, emphasis and contrast. Composition depends on the principles.

Gestalt Principles of Design
    • The concept of Gestalt psychology is the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and in this way defines how we perceive things. The whole is understood is by visually grouping the parts. The principles are: Figure-Ground, Closure, Similarity, Proximity, Continuation/Common Fate & Symmetry

User Research

We surveyed newer designers and found that they are open to trying a new tool to help them with design. Based on our survey results we saw an opportunity to help streamline the design process. 

Competitive Analysis and Resources

While there are many creative inspiration tools out there, there weren’t any that pushed users to design for their audience in a relatable way. Many of them are designed as random inspiration generators, while others are very focused on the user but not related to creativity. We researched these to find what was really working with each one. Here is the short list of what we looked at:

Key Stages & Pivot Points

Initial Brainstorming

We met with Jeff Turkelson, Associate Director of Strategy at Artefact who worked on the Tarot Cards of Tech. He emphasized having structure and directed focus.

Techniques for Brainstorming:

    • It’s all about the structure of the session
    • Time box yourself. Limit your brainstorming session to 5 minutes. 
    • Use sticky notes. It keeps things organized and it’s easy to add and discard of information.
    • Quantity over quality
    • Give yourself an hour, 5 prompts, 5 min per prompt, 3 mins of sharing after each prompt.
    • The prompt needs to be worded right, open-ended but also directed.
    • No filters on what is possible.
    • Share out an idea right away, active conversation.
    • Have a reflection at the end about the session.
    • Put stickers on what are each person’s favorite ideas.

Techniques for Creating Questions:

      • Reversal: Reverse or completely change question in pretext. Turning the expectation on its head. (Eg: Environment Card from Tarot Cards of Tech)
      • Extremes: Pushing towards extreme, use the absolute extreme to provoke more questions. (Eg: Scandal Card from Tarot Cards of Tech)
      • Practical: Use examples to make it feel real. A specific example could be helpful if questions don’t inspire immediately (visual aid).

Pivot Point 1: Organizing the Cards by Tones

Our goal was to divide the deck of cards into groups that were distinctly different from one another so that a designer would know what group of cards would help them. Our initial idea was to pair tonal qualities with elements of design, to push the designer to think of the audience and use elements of design. Eg: Playful (tone) + Line (element)= How might you use line playfully in your composition?


  1. Too Vague
    There are an infinite number of tones. If the tones were too similar, it would be confusing for the designer. We eventually narrowed down the tones into into two categories: stable and dynamic. Through testing, we came to the realization that these meanings were only sometimes true. For instance, a diagonal line shows dynamic energy, it has movement and can demonstrate an active state, but this isn’t always true. Depending on the tone of the design, a diagonal line could be the opposite of dynamic. It could be anchored against something, leaving it stationary.

  2. Contradiction is Great
    Using Stable and Dynamic to organize the cards and direct the user was way too broad to define the user’s audience/client. In many situations a user’s client could have two tonal qualities that might even contradict each other and be both dynamic and stable. For example, if the tone playful is dynamic and the tone trusted is stable and both apply to the user’s client, how would the user choose between dynamic cards and stable cards? Great brands often have a push and pull between two contrasting tones. To have a question for every tone was impossible, and to be specific enough with only two tones was also impossible. 

Next Steps:

To analyze the questions we created from brainstorming and understand a pattern of what is working and not working.

Pivot point 2:
Art Direction Cards vs Conceptual Cards

At this point our cards contained two types of questions. Some cards art directed the designer to do a specific task. Other cards asked a conceptual question about their design.


After user testing we found that a deck of cards could not art direct designers. This is true because each project is too complex to give a specific direction. This realization made us recognize that we needed our cards to be more conceptual than matter of fact. This would give the designer their own sense of how to interpret the cards, rather than us telling them what they should and shouldn’t do.

Next Steps:

To further the process of creating cards and exercises for our project, we would think of a situation or problem a designer might face, and then conceptualize a question from that.

Pivot Point 3:
Establishing Goals for the Card Content

As we began to further refine the content for the cards, we came up with goals for our questions:

  1. Does this push the user to design for their intended audience?
  2. Does it help the user establish a strong concept?
  3. Does it prove or disprove their original design/make them question their assumptions?
  4. Does it help establish empathy with their audience and client?
  5. Does it help modify and adapt?


This really helped us cut out many of the questions that would not serve our user. We chose to not user test all of our original questions because it would’ve taken a very long time to go through. Having a guide for ourselves helped us pick out the best ones for testing.

The Design Thinking Process

A Designer’s Process, When do I use Designu?

There are so many stages to a design process. Without defining the point a designer would use the cards, our questions/exercises couldn’t be specific enough to help our user. We found in our user testing that people were confused on what project they would use Designu for because the projects were in different phases of the design thinking.

Ideation Phase

Referencing IDEO’s design thinking process, we decided the best point for our cards to be used would be during the Ideation phase, specifically at the end, during the testing part of ideation. 
Defining the phase at which these would be used helped us further structure our questions in the right direction.

Pivot Point 4:
Organizing the Cards through Truth or Dare 

Pieces of the puzzle started to come together. After understanding the phase these cards would be used and narrowing down the questions that we had created we began to see a pattern of what was left.


We had questions that prompted the truth and exercises that pushed the user to do something new. A lightbulb moment, and we realized it was like Truth or Dare.
Truth cards ask questions about the user’s design, to push their elements of design toward their intended audience. Dare cards prompt the user to break out of their routine and try a design exercise to help get new ideas.

Key Insights from User Testing Rounds

    • Specific information on a card is better than vague. If something isn’t descriptive enough, conceptual questions can be very confusing to the user.
    • Assume a problem when creating a question.
    • Make sure there is a clear concept.
      • Sub-questions should reinstate that concept not veer from the main question
    • The cards don’t work for a designer who has many different ideas and is not settled on one, the user needs to choose one item that they are most attached to.
    • For a user who is still very undecided on an idea, Truth questions are not as effective, brainstorm questions would be more useful.
    • For Dare Cards: Standardize card structure. Have a three paragraph structure and it’ll make it easier to read. Start with the action rather than an anecdote.

Evolution of a Question

Here is an example of a card’s evolution from beginning to end:

Phase 1

Initial question from brainstorming session.

Phase 2

We had originally thought that the content needed to be really concise. We found from user testing that it is more important to be descriptive rather than be vague and concise.

Phase 3

Final result after adding more description of the questions.


The key adjectives for our brand is approachable, focused and imaginative.

Deck Sample

Final Thoughts

This was such a great learning process on how to start something new, user testing and the design process. It was super difficult at times, and each of those pivot points we had felt lost about whether or not we would be able to solve this problem. I can genuinely say I’m glad we went through those and I feel our product is strong because we were able to test our ideas and move forward when it didn’t work. We would think we were done with user testing and we always ended up doing more because we needed it. A possible future opportunity for us would be to sell designu and create a how-to


—fueled by


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