English | 2014 | ISBN: 978-1-937557-14-0 | 135 Pages | PDF, EPUB | 10 MB
Whether you’re a designer or not, you make design decisions every day.
Successful design projects require equal participation from both the client and the design team.
Yet, for most people who buy design, the process remains a mystery.
In his follow-up to Design Is a Job, Mike Monteiro demystifies the design process and helps you prepare for your role. Ensure you’re asking the right questions, giving effective feedback, and hiring designers who will challenge you to make your product the best it can be.
WHAT’S A DESIGNER?
“Bring in the creatives!”
When most people think of designers, they picture something exotic. A rule-breaker! A free spirit. They may picture Edna Mode from The Incrediblesforcing her newly designed suits on a freaked-out Elastigirl. They may see Stan from Mad Men lighting a joint in the office. Or Will Ferrell’s character Mugatu from Zoolander.And god bless those of you imagining Darrin Stephens from Bewitched,who was unable to solve a client’s problem without the intervention of forbidden wife-magic.
The myth of inspiration has a strong hold on designers and their clients. Both share in its perpetuation. (Can you imagine letting any other employee get away with only working when inspired? I hope not.)
Designers make things
This is probably the part you already associate with designers: the making of the thing. Yes, with the mockups (don’t call them mocks!), the layouts, and the coding. I won’t spend too much of your time here, except to emphasize that the reason this part works is all the attention to the parts that come before it: the research and the strategy. Understanding the problem. Heck, sitting down to execute is almost the easy part if you did the prep work.
RED FLAGS TO LOOK FOR IN DESIGNERS
- Beware of designers who’ve only worked by themselves.A designer who’s worked alone only knows what they know. But a designer who’s worked with other designers, taking in everything they had to teach, knows what they all know and isn’t afraid to tell you what they need. A young kid who’s the sole designer in a company founded by and filled with engineers or developers has a harder time learning how to make the case for their craft. They don’t work to convince someone of a point, because they never feel like they have
the backup. They’re a pair of hired hands.
- Beware of designers who wait for you to define their job. The designer is the expert in what you hired them to do and what they need to get that done. After all, you hired them because they’re uniquely qualified to do this. Good designers empower themselves to do their jobs. If you’re in a situation where your designer asks for a lot of direction, you may need to remind them that you expect them to take charge of the things under their purview. Your designer should come to you for feedback that evaluates their proposed solution—but
not direction, which asks you to come up with the solution itself. That’s what you hired them for.
RESPECT THE DESIGNER’S PROCESS
The designer’s process is what made your designer successful enough that you decided to hire them. If that process worked for previous clients, it’s highly likely it’ll work for you too.
We once bid on a fantastic project, the type of work we enjoy and do well. Everything was lining up: the timeline was realistic with an ample budget, and the clients were smart and knowledgeable about their audience. A dream project. (Like yours.) So we talked to the client, got to know them, scoped out the work, and submitted an estimate. Then we waited.
The client called after a week. They’d gone through the estimates and narrowed it down to three design studios. They couldn’t figure out which to choose, so they came up with a plan. They asked each studio to create a concept for the site and even offered to pay for the work. (In the industry, we call this a bake-off. It’s a terrible practice.)
Except we said we couldn’t do that. Not because we didn’t want the project, because we very much did. But that wasn’t our process. Our work relies on research as the first step of the design process. We gather user data to minimize the risk of failure and to optimize the chance of success. Until we’ve done so, we’re guessing. We’re throwing things against the wall to see if they stick. That isn’t the path to good design.
Good design doesn’t stem from intuition, talent, or luck (although I’ll take a smidgen of each). It comes from research and understanding. We told the client this was a process that worked, one we stood by. We said the work in our portfolio — the work that made them approach us as potential partners — resulted from this process.
They politely listened, thanked us, and then hung up. I went back to looking for my next client, thinking that was the end of this one. And I was honestly amazed when they called back to offer us the job.
I’d love to tell you that our argument convinced them, but it hadn’t. The other two studios, who agreed to do initial concepts without any research, did. Their concepts were nothing close to what that client needed. How could they have been? Beware a designer who tells you they can solve your problem without doing the legwork of research. That’s not good design, it’s a magic trick. They’re either lying to you or themselves.