A look at the language of communicating a design today in a connected world.
Recently I found a very interesting post titled “Designers Who Don’t Talk Like Designers Get Hired”. The particular paragraph in question was:
“Many designers talk to businesses from a designer’s perspective. This results in lost contracts, poor communication, and feeling as though design is unappreciated by the client. It turns out that by learning to take a business perspective, designers can win more contracts, earn more from their work, and be more valued.”
There were some interesting debates and opinions within our design team about the tone and content of that post.
Personally, I thought the author was making a valid point albeit what appears to be a generalizing statement about the design community at large.
This brought us to the point of this topic which is, how do we define a designer today? What really are mindsets and skill sets of people with specific roles like user researcher, interaction designer, visual designer,user experience designer, customer experience designer, content designer, front end designer, etc.
What language should any of these above designers speak? Should they be aware of the skillsets of each other? Is it about being a jack of all trades or a master of all?
To me, everything boils down to the simple fact that a designer today is mostly supporting three goals.
Fact: Like it or not, in most cases, the business is in it to make money by:
By selling a product or products… to make money. Example: Amazon
Providing a service… to make money. Example: Uber
Making systems efficient so that people are productive and hence enable the business… to make more money. Example: UXPin, Basecamp
Understanding how these goals trickle down to the smallest detail is I think, the big part in anything we design… including how we communicate the design or the approach.
Without undermining the importance of aesthetics in any way, I think using the right vocabulary to communicate a design to a business is extremely important. It is the “why’s” and “as a result of which…” in the conversation.
The dialogue really is about things like why the color, why the layout, why the SVG or why that size?
Should a designer only be communicating in the language of aesthetics? What is the real design problem?
- Am I, as a designer making choices that make 5 secs of someones time productive?
- Am I, as a designer making choices about how those choices affect the performance of the experience? Is it a designer’s problem?
- Am I, as a designer worrying about the perception of everything on the screen as perceived by the user?
- Am I, as a designer worrying about where and how the solution is going to be consumed?
- Am I, as a designer worrying about the design being scalable and future proof?
Do I as a designer understand the business? Do I need to understand the business?
In the end, I think as designers we need to clearly justify the reasoning behind our designs in a language of ‘gains’. What do you as a business gain by me as a designer communicating a design choice. It is about me as a designer understanding all aspects of a user centered design process and using that insight to support a design decision or approach.
The fact that things have to be aesthetically neat and current are prerequisites to me. There is tremendous effort in visual research and design but they are not value adds. You have to do it. To communicate a design solution just on the basis of aesthetics is not the right way in my opinion.
To support the original article that led to this post, It’s almost like me applying for a chef position in a restaurant with the leading line in my resume that says I cook really well.
Food for thought?