Design is both exploratory and integrative. Designers are creative problem seekers who explore many ways of thinking about a task and creative problem solvers who synthesize the outcomes of their exploration in design solutions that best fit people's "wants and needs" and the demands of the surrounding context. They are comfortable with challenges in which design constraints and opportunities are initially uncertain and for which there are no "right or wrong" answers. Designers are curious and speculate on things that don't yet exist. They notice areas of friction in their surroundings and improve current conditions by changing the qualities of something that already exists, applying an old idea to a new situation or use, or inventing something entirely new. They ask "what if," seeing opportunities in situations that others take for granted. They plan, make, and test new ideas, accepting criticism and knowing that revisions will be necessary.
Designers are also strategists and critical thinkers. They "frame" projects. Rather than accept a design assignment as given, they confirm the client's perceptions and beliefs through research and evaluate the relevance of the project brief in bringing about the desired change. They analyze and synthesize information from a variety of sources as the basis for decision-making, believing good ideas can come from anywhere. Designers take a long view of change over time and can think in terms of outcomes for individuals and the culture. They project possibilities and consider the effects of design at different levels before implementing solutions to problems — from small details that define the qualities of people's individual experiences to lasting influences on large-scale physical, social, technological, and economic systems. They are organized in their practices and leaders within teams of diverse experts.
Designers are motivated by the challenge of creating the conditions for people's experiences. They analyze human-centered research, observe behavior, and talk to people about how a successful design must perform. They study the culture for clues about share values and perceptions. They analyze activities for insight into how people think and feel when undertaking a task. Designers can walk in the shoes of another — imagine someone else's perceptions, reasoning, and emotions — and weigh competing priorities among various stakeholders.
Designers often employ visual tools in bringing concrete form to hazy ideas and in communicating with others throughout the design process. They use diagramming, mapping, modeling, photography, and sketching to record observations, reveal patterns in information, analyze parts-to-whole relationships, and explore the tangible qualities of an idea. While a designer's technical drawing ability may be essential to some types of practice, other areas of the communication design profession rely on an array of quick and efficient visuals as a step on the way to solving a complex problem.