Design Sense: Have You Got It?

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Designer paint cans

We make design choices every day. From the way we arrange the furniture in our living room to the smartphone we buy, our purchases and our environment are influenced by design style.

With so much of our life shaped by design choices, it may be surprising to learn that nearly 2 out of 3 people think they have no sense of design at all.


The online survey “Do You Have Good Design Sense?” was conducted December 2013 using Google Consumer Surveys. GCS evaluated responses from 2,505 people and weighted the results by age, gender and region.

design sense survey - graph 1

At BuildDirect, we recently ran a survey asking American consumers, “Do you have a good sense of design?” and found a surprising result — 64% said no. Among 2,500 responses, only 36% responded favorably.

Women Most Likely to Report Having Good Design Sense

design sense survey - graph 2

According to the study, women are more confident in their design sense compared to how men feel about their abilities. Women identified as design savvy 39% of the time, versus just 34% of men.

Lower Wage Earners Least Likely to Identify as Having Design Sense

Income was another big predictor of whether or not one was likely to believe they possessed design sense. Individuals earning less than $24,000 per year identified in the affirmative just 28% of the time compared to the average of 37%.

What Affects Design Sense?

Survey results show that while income and gender affect an American’s self-proclaimed sense of design, age and environment appear to have almost no impact.

This suggests that a person’s perceived ability to judge good design is not based on experience. Nor is it based on regional identity — those living on the image-conscious West Coast were no more likely to express having design sense than those living in the Midwest.

What, then, affects personal confidence in our ability to judge design?

Americans Don’t Trust Their Own Design Abilities

While it can be argued that the world is full of ugly living rooms, it’s just as true that good design is a subjective assessment — constantly changing according to the whims of popular culture and current trends. One study found that, unless given strict criteria, even designers disagree when asked to judge good design.

If the definition of good design is malleable, why don’t more people believe in their innate ability to detect it?

What do you think?

Do people have an inaccurate view of their own design sense? Are we better at discerning good design that we give ourselves credit for? Or, should we rely on professionals to determine which design is in our best interest?

Tell me in the comments section!



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Rob Jones

Rob served as Editor-In-Chief of BuildDirect Blog: Life At Home from 2007-2016. He is a writer, Dad, content strategist, and music fan.