Dear Clients, Let’s learn Design.

Dear Clients,

Subject- Let’s Learn Design.

I hope you all are in the best of your health and spirits. Let me introduce myself to you. I am Sandesh and have been working in the design industry for over 5 years now. I am one of the co-founders at “ProCreator” and have designed user experiences, consulted clients for digital products in a wide array of industries, product domains, and company structures. While on my design journey, I have heard many of you say, “I don’t know much about design, you are the expert here” Well, I can’t deny with the latter, but I do partially disagree with the former. To learn design is to observe things around in terms of efficiency and simplicity.

I would ask you to perform a simple action, look around you, the design is everywhere. You can learn design from the simplest of the things around.  The mouse you are using to scroll through this article, the chair you are sitting on, and the app you will use to order some food after reading through this long article (but a great read) are all different forms of design. We make design decisions every day; from choosing the right chair that gives us comfort to sit on, to the clothes we wear to make ourselves comfortable or stylish, to the app we use or the phone we buy. These decisions are a result of the form (How it looks like) and function. (Does it easily do the job it is intended to?).

We know when we encounter a good design and when we encounter bad design. Remember the last time you went to an ATM? It was a tad bit frustrating. Isn’t it? We hate bad designs. Later, we sit and think about how it could have made the process easier. After successfully making my point that we all know something about Design, let’s understand what design actually is. In the simplest of words, “Design is problem-solving.” You, as a client, have problems, business goals, and objectives to meet, and we, as designers, offer a solution to the problems through design and help you meet them.

Design is gaining a lot of popularity these days, especially Digital Design. With almost every aspect of our lives going digital, it has been paramount for businesses and companies to build digital products and fulfill the needs and goals of today’s instant gratification generation and not to forget, catch up with their competition. The User Experience your product delivers become a critical factor in helping differentiate your products against your competitors.

The businesses are in a constant hunt for designers. Finding a good designer can be difficult, and it could be even more challenging to maintain a smooth client-designer relationship for a successful design project. I have had clients who appreciated my work and were fantastic to have recommended ProCreator and me to others. I have worked with clients who didn’t appreciate my work; some were reluctant to pay on time, some were overly critical, and many more of all kinds of mindsets. I am thankful, most of the time, the former was true.

The reason I wanted to write this article is to help us work better together and run smoother and successful design projects, which also helps bring the project cost down. Successful design projects require participation from the client as well as the designer (we will talk about exactly how much participation a little later). If design projects go south, it’s the client as well as the designer who is responsible. 

Then why aren’t most clients well-informed about design, the value it brings, the design process, and at the least; how to go about collaborating with a designer on a design project. They deserve to know these as they pay for the project to make it successful.  This article is a reflection of my learnings over time.

A tendency to skip the process

Design, by its nature, is problem-solving. No matter tightly, it operates within a set of constraints, it aims to keep the user of the product at the center. It begins with a good understanding of the users, their goals, their needs, and the objectives they are trying to fulfill from the product, not to forget the business goals. The designer’s job is to complement the business expertise of the client with their problem-solving abilities & skills to produce a result that meets the common goals.

While you may learn what good design is, you may not be able to implement the same. Therefore, you hire designers, professionals who can do it for you. Soon before you begin with the process of hiring a designer, make sure you & your stakeholders have clarity on the goals, and then bring in the designer or design team to work through the details and the strategy.

Research and conceptualization are among the key things that go into defining the success of the project. There is no shortcut to good design. It’s a process, a rigorous one indeed. So, if some designer is okay with skipping the research, well, you may have a red alert. Likewise, if you are someone who is insisting on the designer on skipping the process; please reconsider. What good is a design if it is done on instinct rather than evidence? Often times, clients tend to rush into seeing the layouts or visuals right away. Well, it’s not like we can’t show them. We can, but again it will be based on instinct and not real data.

Not clarifying the goals or objectives properly.

Learn Design- Clear Goals

Working with designers is like going to a doctor’s. You describe what’s wrong and have the doctor diagnose the problem and prescribe solution/s. We research around different use cases to figure out your real problem, then come up with a plan to design a solution around it. Think of success-defining factors. We know just thinking itself may not result in a great design, but it increases the chances of coming up with the idea that it can later be polished to create our solution. Design doesn’t work if you don’t know your intent. The important thing is to agree on a direction, common intent, and a shared goal.

Asking just for a ‘Logo’ or a ‘Viral Video’ is not what the correct requirements are. Help me understand the purpose and necessity of the same. Help me see the end goal, and I can make my work lean towards it. Explain why you want this website built. Or why you need this copy written. The more you explain, the more accurate and purposeful the work will be.

You are hiring a mind, not hands.

When you hire a designer, you are not merely hiring a pair of hands. You are hiring a mind that’s been trained to solve problems in ways you can’t. You pay us to create something outstanding for your business. Something unique that aligns with your business roadmap. Executing design is as much as a process as learning it.

Mistrust and a general sense of disbelief

People often mistake design for self-expression, Ah, he likes the color blue, and that’s why he is trying to sell it to me. Design disasters usually arise from the false notion that design is an art, not craft. You might have something in mind already for the end product. I guess you’ve already visited your competitor’s websites; you’ve looked at what similar brands have done; you’ve watched a million viral videos. That kind of research is helpful, as it helps in defining the vision for your product.

Multiple Points of Contacts

Learn Design- Multiple point of contact

Who is in charge of making decisions on all levels of the design process? It gets crucial to highlight the POCs and decision-makers at the beginning of the process. This way, it gets easy for the design team to carry on with their work without any unnecessary hindrance.

Non-involvement of key stakeholders

Learn Design- Involving Stakeholders

Involve necessary stakeholders and their opinions it suggestions from the very first stage. This avoids conflict of interest later and better understandability in terms of requirements. It prevents a lot of re-work at the later stages when the project is in full swing. Also, it gives an opportunity to all the members to get involved in the process and learn more about design.

Power Play Design

Cross-functional teams and departments almost always have disagreements among themselves. We are often asked to design a solution that meets both teams halfway. It is always great to have 2 different options to cover all possibilities.

Hire the Right Designer

A good designer behaves like a skilled professional with analytical, persuasive, creative, and social skills. Watch out for these traits. You can count on them to solve problems, present good work promptly, be accountable, and argue from an informed point of view. Keep your users at the center of your design process. Good designers advocate for users’ needs and pain points. It doesn’t mean we disregard your business needs. Designers need to work well with others and be a communication professional. Projects take time. Relationships and trust need to be built.

Designers need to be able to rationalize and should have reasoning skills. They take feedback and ask a lot of questions. (You should see my google docs filled with tons of questions). Ensure designers ask questions. There will always be disagreements. The road to good design is bound to have few thorns.

Not enough time

This should not take a lot of time,” “I know you can pull it off in just a day,” “There isn’t much to do here.” To produce amazing work, we need to dedicate significant time, focus, and effort to a project. We should respect each other’s time.

How much does it cost?

If the first thing you ever ask is “How much will it cost?” that’s a big red flag. It’s far better to first speak about your business, your goals, and how implementing creative work could help it grow. Good design is priceless, although building a product isn’t. We understand the problem, so we try and come with the best solutions to turn the entire process to be both cost-effective and efficient. Everyone should have a mindset to learn design and more importantly understand design.

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

On the ending note, I would just like to say,  To understand and learn the value of good design, we should start acknowledging a bad design.

Sandesh Subedi