1. Keep a design notebook. Buy a small notebook and carry it with you. When you see great design, make a note of it. (Example: My $6.95 HotSpot silicone trivet — a thin, flexible square that doubles as a pot holder, triples as a jar opener, and looks sweet.) Do the same for bad design. Soon, you’ll be looking at graphics, interiors, and more with greater acuity.
2. Create an inspiration board. When you’re working on a project, turn your bulletin board into an inspiration board. Each time you see something you find compelling — a photo, a piece of fabric, a type font, a word — tack it on to the board. You’ll start seeing connections between the images and ideas that will enliven and expand your work.
3. Participate in the “third industrial revolution.” Mass customization is combining buying with designing. “What I call the third industrial revolution,” says Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, “will give people the opportunity to have a unique piece.” Try designing your own shoe — with the color, pattern, and image that’s right for you — at Nike (nikeid.nike.com).
4. Put it on a table. Design Continuum’s Dan Buchner suggests you find an object that’s special to you and put it on a table. Then ask: How does it connect to your senses? Why does it tickle your emotions? “Developing the ability to select designs that connect with our emotions,” he says, “should help us populate our lives with meaningful, satisfying objects.”
5. Read design magazines. It sounds obvious, but if all businesspeople are designers, then all businesspeople should start reading the top design magazines. Some of the best: How, I.D., Metropolis, and Dwell.