Working with Designers

Published: 07 November, 2002

Working with a Designer should provide you with great solutions and should be an interesting and exciting experience. Designers are there to help you develop your ideas to a final result that meets all objectives in the best possible way and yet, for many people who use a Designer, it ends up being a difficult struggle resulting in a poor solution and a mistrust of what it is that Designers actually do.

In this article I would like to clarify what the role of a Designer is and offer some suggestions for a smoother working relationship between Designers and their clients.

Firstly...what is a Designer?

A Designer is simply a person who uses a process to create or be creative. This definition also allows the freedom to further specify the medium the Designer works within such as graphic design, textile design, web design. Designers, however, can come in many guises. People who set up management processes should be designers, developing an environment that fosters further creativity (though in general managers themselves should not be designers as management is a maintenance process and not a creative one); software developers should be designers, designing the way they will develop a piece of software; the list goes on. The key to design lies in the process that is used so now let's have a look at this process and why it's so important.

The Design Process

This process comes in many forms and is called many things but the fundamentals are always the same.

  1. Analysis: identifying the issue that needs to be resolved. eg. create a web site.
  2. Concepts: initial ideas that get refined until there is at least one clear solution.
  3. Development: Develop the concept work into a working solution.
  4. Review: Testing the solution to ensure it meets all the requirements.
  5. Delivery: Finalise the solution and deliver it to it's final state.

Five simple stages that can be given different emphasis depending on the needs of the Designer (and often the medium). Each stage can be made up of the same five stages again to get more detail in some areas. eg. The Development stage is often one that requires more detail. This process also allows Designers from different media types to communicate and work together as well as providing a simple breakdown of stages for costings.

How to get the most out of your Designer

There is no magic formula for this but a few simple things will help move the process along.

  1. You are dealing with a person. There is often an incorrect perception that Designers are somehow magic or able to get things right first time all the time. Designers, like everyone, make mistakes on a regular basis. A professional Designer will recover quickly from mistakes and work to keep any negative effects to a minimum.
  2. Don't let Designers confuse you with jargon. If you don't understand, don't let it slide. You need to understand what they are doing for you and why and a good Designer will be able to talk you through every aspect of the design.
  3. Provide constructive feedback. You should be asked for this all the way through and it is invaluable for the Designer to hear that feedback. Constructive feedback can simply mean questioning areas you don't understand or don't think fit with the solution. Be prepared and open to discussion.
  4. Be realistic with time frames. Deadlines are important to the Design process but they need to be realistic. You often have to choose which of time, quality or cost you are able to do without.
  5. View the relationship as a partnership. Respect the Designers skills and knowledge just as they should respect your skills and knowledge.
  6. Do not be afraid to change Designers. Designers all have individual styles and abilities and often these will not match up with your requirements. A professional Designer should be able to respect the fact that they are not the best match, in fact they should be the ones to identify the situation.

Most of these points are common throughout all business practice and often simply come down to respect for others and having realistic expectations. A good Designer will make the effort to understand your requirements and then work with you to provide the best solution using the Design process, your feedback and their understanding of the medium or environment that they are Designing for.