I recently wrote an article entitled “What we really mean when we use words like agile.” I’d heard myself and other designers using jargon in an attempt to sound like a specialist. I questioned what was actually being said and for fun created a glossary of terms. Just like other industries the list of buzzwords revealed how people seem to hide behind an illusion.
Agencies tend to be self-referential and the design industry spends too much time having to explain or justify what professionals do. If you want to be taken seriously then you need to prove your worth but design is subjective; based on people’s inner experience rather than hard fact. I believe that designers like actors or artists are encouraged to create an illusion of having something special and illusive. Clients want to suspend their disbelief, sacrificing realism for the sake of enjoying the freedom to explore concepts and anticipating a little magic.
Writing this is self-indulgent and I could get lost in contemplation but I hope it’s helpful to acknowledge what it is that clients are actually buying.
Like other professions, experience is valuable. Taking a skill and putting hours into developing a discipline is an investment which you can sell.
Designers work across sectors and spend time with all sorts of clients; engineers, business leaders, charity workers, retailers etc. Along with filmmakers and writers, the lessons learnt from personal experience include cross fertilised ideas from different sectors. Communicating a subject means that you need to reach a level of understanding and appreciation. Curiosity is key, asking the right questions and soaking up knowledge.
Technical skills are important but a few YouTube tutorials will get you up to speed with design software. Knowing what to do with it is the test. How something come together, placing the right thing in the right place at the right time.
Clients appreciate sharing planning because the world has become more complex and interdependent. Having a different approach and offering an outside view helps spot the gaps. Design projects also provide an opportunity for silos to work together.
Management consultants crunch information to provide clever solutions. Businesses have been steered by data analysis, reports and projections. Designers offer an alternative approach, using divergent thinking to make lateral connections and unique ideas. Design tackles the ambiguous human factors that can’t be captured in a spreadsheet.
Being passionate about what you do is also important. Sharing an enthusiasm for what’s new or trending. Being an early adopter of technology and discovering new tricks.
Clients also need people who will take risks, someone who’ll say the unsaid or dare to be different. No-one wants to make mistakes but it is part of the creative process and helps focus on what is right and wrong.
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