MBTI, a solid framework to sketch ideas

Do you think it’s hard to get started when you’re trying to come up with tons of great design solutions? Do you feel like you’re missing some great ideas when you’re done? A solid framework could help you. I think MBTI is a framework that can help you out.

When generating ideas during brainstorm and sketching sessions it’s sometimes hard to inspire people to get started. A solid framework would help us get the stream of ideas coming. At Concept7 we often use a framework which is based on MBTI methodology. The simplified decision-model was coined by The Eisenberg Brothers in some of their books as well (good reads).

Update Friday October 30, 2009: I’ve uploaded the sketching paper we use at Concept7 the generate ideas during our ideation sessions. You can download the sketching paper for free.

The framework distinguishes four types of people: competitive, spontaneous, humanistic and methodical. By solving design issues for all these types of website users we can be sure to cover a wide variety of perspectives while easily coming up with great sketches and ideas.

Imagine we’re challenging ourselves to design a solution for a person who has no idea which mp3 player to choose at an online store.

Competitive

According to MBTI this person would be the NT (iNtuitive/Thinking) type. These people prefer to decide quickly, their choice is mostly based on facts. If he would ask himself a question it would definately start with ‘what’.

Solution: A design solution for this type of person would be a lister page with short summaries (they don’t need more information to decide) and a quick buying button to get it over with.

Spontaneous

MBTI describes these persons as the SP (Sensing/Perceiving) type. They act quickly and their acts are based on feelings. If these people would ask themselves a question, it probably start with ‘why’.

Solution: A design solution for this person could be highlighting one product from the list as a special discount. This will definately appeal to them.

Humanistic

The MBTI would call this person an NF (iNtuitive/Feeling) type. These people follow their feelings and emotions, just like the spontaneous type. The humanistic type takes a lot more time to make a decision. In order to gain this person’s trust we need to do a little more effort. They’re very curious about what other people think of the product and about who sells it. If this person would ask himself a question it probably start with ‘who’.

Solution: An idea for the humanistic type could be a testimonial or a client quote. Also a reviews section would help this person decide.

Methodical

According the MBTI this is the SJ (Sensing/Judging) person, a slow decision maker who keeps looking for factual information. He wants to read and compare every detail before deciding which product he’ll choose. If he would ask himself a question it would probably start with ‘how’.

Solution: A solution for this type of person could be a comparison function. The comparison table would show all factual data of the product so our website visitor can take a comprehensive look before he decides. He probably wants to print all specs so he can take a look later on.

Brief history of MBTI

Interesting reads

Unfortunately these sources are available in Dutch only.

The base for this framework was originally invented by Carl Gustav Jung, he was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology known as Jungian psychology.

In Jung’s book ‘Psychological types’ 1917 he describes four core types of human personality: thinking and feeling, perception and intuition. For each of the two sets, one type is dominant for every certain person. Besides these four types he distinguishes whether the person can be considered introvert or extravert.

Later Katharine Cook Briggs and here daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which classifies sixteen types of personalities. Their system is mostly used to describe team member’s role during a teambuilding proces. We stick to the main four personality types.

Sources

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on Wikipedia
Sceencast: Does your site appeal to all buying modes?

5 Replies

  1. Mark Baldino

    This is a very interesting idea especially, as you noted, when starting fresh with a new concept. At our firm we generally try and identify personas first before diving into concepts but sometimes that isn’t possible or perhaps your approach could be used in conjunction with personas.

    I am curious your next step in the process. Do you merge these ideas into a single concept blending the best from each? Or perhaps start over and just use them as a reference point for further design?

    Mark

  2. Henk Wijnholds

    @mark Thanks for this great question.

    For us this is only one way to get going when trying to come up with lots of ideas. When you have the opportunity to identify personas then that’s even better (in our case, the 4 MBTI personalities sometimes form a base for personas). These personality traits help us think outside the box (or even better, inside someone else’s).

    But when choosing the right ideas, sculpting ideas and sculpting the concept a lot of other factors become more important than the 4 personality traits. User research; feasibility; business requirements; other design principles and gut feelings then overrule the MBTI framework. For example: It may very well be that in the accountancy sector people act preferably methodical when performing certain tasks.

  3. Sean Scott

    If you like MTBI, I would definitely recommend “Waiting for your Cat to Bark” by the Eisenberg brothers. Really goes into a lot of details. We based our personas on a similar methodology.

  4. Jamie Neely

    This is really interesting. It makes perfect sense to lean on the ideas of MBTI when considering a person’s preference for one idea over another. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing the sketching paper too, Henk.

  5. Nico

    Grappig dat ik aan het Googlen ben en jouw website tegen kom :) Leuk artikel!

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