I opened my email this evening to Contract Magazine‘s newsletter and navigated to an article entitled Clients are from Mars; Designers are from Venus by Martha G. Rayle of Rayle Associates. Rayle discusses why designers and clients often seem to speak a different language. She enumerates the complaints that these two groups have about each other and ends with a list of what clients want.

As part of this discussion, however, Rayle mentions the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test that purports to pinpoint the way one focuses attention (Extroversion or Introversion: E or I), looks at things (Sensing or Intuition: S or N), makes decisions (Thinking or Feeling: T or F), and deals with the outer world (Judging or Perceiving: J or P). The test assigns a “type” based on scores in these four areas.

Rayle avers that 83% of designers are Intuitives as opposed to Sensing types. She says, “The thinking style of Intuitives begins with generalities and funnels down to specifics,” arguing that this style fits well with the design development process. She then notes that the majority of businesses are Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, with a strong tendency to solve problems by moving from specifics to the general. It is this dichotomy between the Intuitiveness of designers and the Sensing-ness of business that, she argues, causes miscommunication.

I took the Myers-Briggs test about 12 years ago and tested as an ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). According to the blurb on the back of my score sheet, ISTJ people are “Serious, quiet, earn success by concentration and thoroughness. Practical, orderly, matter-of-fact, logical, realistic, and dependable. See to it that everything is well organized. Take responsibility. Make up their own minds as to what should be accomplished and work toward it steadily, regardless of protests or distractions.”

My score on the Sensing-Intuition scale, however, was nearly at the middle, telling me that a couple of questions answered differently might have made me an INTJ, described as “Usually have original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through with or without help. Skeptical, critical, independent, determined, sometimes stubborn. Must learn to yield less important points in order to win the most important.”

This is all pretty interesting, but the front of my test report form also says if the type you got assigned doesn’t fit you, “try to find one that does,” which suggests that this test is, by its own admission, not particularly precise. If I look at the descriptions of some of the other types, I can indeed recognize myself. Life’s not so simple as a personality test would suggest, but it’s fun to contemplate the results and their implications.

Besides, I’m ticking off my courses one by one and it won’t be long until I’m ready for the Big Job Hunt. Relating Rayle’s article to my own Myers-Briggs results makes me wonder – if I’m right in the middle between Sensing (business) and Intuition (design), does that mean I can do both equally well and therefore be useful to a design firm as a bridge between a design team and its business clients? I think so. This Myers-Briggs information may ultimately be helpful in figuring out how to fit myself into the design world.

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