You're the Designer. You decide the design.
Ever thought about the role you're playing in your team? Are you really the designer? Or are you just someone who designs stuff? Sadly, there's way too many so called "experienced specialists" that have the audacity to make important decisions in design processes - on the other hand, there's way to many capable designers, sitting in the shadow of their bosses and sales managers, not having the courage or possibility to take over the control of these processes.
Often times this leads to bad solutions for the client, as well as to unhappy designers wich have to put their neck on the line for the sake of the wrong leads. This is a little story about marketers, accountants, sales managers and the like, making design decisions for designers.
Ad agencies, software developers, publishing houses, design studios and so on - they all have certain things in common. Let's jsut have a look at the workflow, that might be consistent over most of these companies:
- they sell stuff - probably.
- they have someone employed to sell stuff for them - most of the times.
- that somebody manages sales and accounting - most likely.
- that somebody takes care of incoming jobs and new projects - that's what they're payed for.
- that somebody works closely with the designer to act as a medium between client needs and the designers work - pretty common.
- that somebody makes most of the decisions in the design process of these projects - wait, what?
Yeah, sad but true. I'm not trying to say that this is the way of every company in the business, but I already ran over this situation more than just a few times. And of course I experienced them myself. Not a single time has this workflow been beneficial to the client or his project.
The reasons for that are pretty obvious. But don't think I would hate sales managers - these people have good competences and without them, many designers wouldn't be able to survive in their jobs. Let's take a quick look at some of these skills and responsiblities:
- sales managers do a whole lot of the communciation with the client
- salesman actually sold the project - therefore they already did the first step of convincing the client to trust your company and your service
- sales managers calculate the prices and keep track of the project processes to intervene if necessary
- maybe the most important one to our topic: in most cases, sales managers present the final product to the client - therefore they have to take the heat if something went wrong
Yes, it's understandable that their job isn't the easiest to do and they earn the respect of us designers. They have to win the project over other competitors, they have to deliver a satisfying result to the client, they have to make him come back for more.
But what they need to learn ist to respect our speciality as designers as well.
They have to learn to trust usPassionate designers have one valuable ability - they can look at a project without seeing the financial profit of it in the first place. We have the designers vision that shows us the basis, the problem, the goal and the possible solutions to get there. Because this is what we know best.
Yes I do imply that sales managers have the financial vision. They see things differently and we can't blame them for that. Where we see aspects of usablity, user experience, content and color, they see the costs, the value, the present profit and the possible future profit of a project. If you think about it for a moment, the better decision maker may be the salesman. Because he knows what the client likes to spend money on and maybe he can make him spend some more of it in the future.
But does that help the client to get a better result and a working solution to come back for more? Fuck no.
So what to do?
This is were we designers have the responsibility to get up on our feet and work out the best solutions possible for the client and his budget. Do the research on how to get to the clients goal most efficiently, plan effort and time. Come up with possible solutions and the logical reasons to use them. Explain meaningful arguments to your sales manager, why to choose one solution over another. Don't let the accountant take over the control over the decisions that are yours to make. Be a designer, do what you're supposed to do and be professional about it. If you are a capable specialist of your profession, you already know wich decisions are the right ones to work for the clients purpose.
Maybe you're not in the position to take over the steering wheel in the design processes of your employers projects. Wheter it is in fear of losing your job, making yourself unpopular or simply making the wrong decisions. In that case you should also think about your position and if it is the right one to be in. Don't be afraid. Be a professional.