What it really means to work in a consultancy as a designer.
The importance of connecting business goals and delivering great experiences for potential clients has emphasized the real value of design within a company. That can explain the big increase of design jobs worldwide lately. Sometimes, a product/service has the potential to grow but can’t do it alone, and that is how consultancies come to play.
Until now, all my professional experience can be summed up working as a design freelancer for clients in Brazil, US and Canada (workaholic mode on) and as a product designer in small/big tech consultancies at the biggest metropole in South America. Working for different clients and businesses gave me the opportunity to face, ask and learn from distinct problems and experiences.
You face all kinds of problems. Everyday.
I think this is the most brilliant fact about working as a consultant designer. Because you are a temporary professional working with a client for a period of time, you usually know when you are going to deliver and finish a project. In order to do that, you may also know that you will work with different clients and face a big variety of contexts and business problems waiting to be solved. That will for sure increase your abilities as a designer, professionally and personally.
You will have to meet and work with new people constantly and, in my perspective, that is a really important quality nowadays. Different people have different abilities to see, understand and do things, as you also do. Finding a professional who has the ability to be really flexible and adaptive during a workday has been a challenge for lead and head designers I know. So be ready for that 😉
You must develop your communication skills
Working with a client always means attending meetings, writing emails and Slack messages, calling other co-workers via Skype, etc. The ability of knowing the right time to listen and speak will have a really big impact on how you and your team deal with your client daily.
One time, I have read a tweet saying that if you want to be promoted you must be a perfect writer. The tweet’s author was actually talking about the perfect ability of writing emails and text messages. The skill of being objective, direct and informative while typing a text message is something that you should look for.
Another important thing: people on your team (your client included) need to know what you are doing, what you have done and the following things you will be doing. Transparency in a workflow is always important for delivering your best.
You gotta be a designer unicorn.
Because you are going to face all kinds of design, tech and business problems, you may need to be comfortable with wearing different hats. You could have been working on something more specific, like a client’s native video streaming iOS app and suddenly you could be asked to work on a financial B2B website. A video streaming app would need a diary study with teenagers, for example, however a financial B2B website would require research and interviews with CFOs.
The diversity of problems that accompany those changes can happen one, two or three times a year. Your ability to be flexible will make you stand out for sure.
You may be asked to deliver a specification for a developer one day, and deal with your client’s users frustrated calls another day and be ready for attending a meeting with all stakeholders on the next day. Depending on your work and the client you are working with, that can be commonplace.
You have a different perspective of a service/product
A major aspect of the work of a design consultant is your distinct perspective from the client. Your point of view will probably be different from what your client has about a design problem. Most of the time when a company asks for help from a consultancy, they need assistance with something that they are not able to do or even understand themselves.
Your skills to collaborate closely with your team and stakeholders will make a huge impact on your deliverables and how the company will see the value on your team members. Maybe, if you work with a client which does not understand the importance of design, (sorry to say that) it is also your work to show them how strategic a designer can be and how significant design is to solve a business problem.
Your ability to easily recognize what can and cannot be done, how it can be done, and the real benefits of each solution (why) will help your team and the client you are working with to deliver great design solutions.