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What is your intention?

John_hIn the world of presentation visuals, I often have new students in university or clients in the business world who are very eager to come to me to show off their "visual masterpieces." These cluttered and distracting multimedia creations, filled with the superfluous and the nonessential, incorporating seemingly every special effect, color, and font the software had to offer, end up assaulting the brains of anyone who dares to look in the general direction of the screen. When they ask me what I think, I usually begin by asking them what there intention was. "What's your intent?" I ask them. The response is always the same: a blank stare followed by some "ums" and erms" and other disfluencies, and the realization that they "had not really thought about it in those terms." And this is the rub: Almost all ineffective design can be traced back to a failure right from the beginning to ask (and answer) the simple question: "What's my (our) intention?"

Today, I am happy to point you to a simple and evocative TED presentation by award-winning journalist John Hockenberry that touches on the issue of design and intent. John Hockenberry's message was clear, engaging, memorable, and inspiring. If this was his intent, then I must say his presentation was wonderfully designed indeed. Well done, Mr. Hockenberry. (View on

Related links

Design with intent blog
Article: Design with intent



Great video. Can I say, intention same as goal? If we don't have goal in design, that will be a bad design.


Not thinking about intent causes failure in more than just design - it causes failure in business and other ventures.

Michael Gowin

Thanks for sharing this, Garr. It gets at the same point that Simon Sinek is making--the "why" (intent) of what we do is the best foundation for the "how" and the "what" of what we do.


please make a critique of microsoft's presentation of their new product surface (at because i think it's so bad that it should be used as an example.


Another problem is also working out exactly what you intent is. One would assume that the intent should be to get a message across but it sounds like the intent of the students or clients is actually to make themselves look good.

And even when we get back on track with the message, often we tend to miss the point. eg, are we trying to show how great the product is, or are we trying to make a sale? With one the intent is the product and with the other the intent is the customer.

So maybe people are easily distracted, or maybe they kinda know their intent is not quite right but don't know how to find the right intent.

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