What is the difference between a good and a great designer? Why do some get better and some stagnate? Is your individual design practice enough to elevate you beyond the competent majority?
Here are a few thoughts around how design work develops from craft, to process to consultation and how your client will always need nurturing.
When you start your design career you focus on the craft. You want to be as good as you possibly can be with the tools, and use your talents in the best way possible.
You analyse details, best practice and blog posts to glean the optimal way to produce. Production is your focus but to do it better than the last time. Improve and practice.
As the years roll on you realise that certain methods need optimising. You see mistakes reoccurring and you want to fix it — you must fix it.
You still feel the need to get better and getting the process correct becomes your focus. During this time the work standard may suffer, or it may not even be your responsibility anymore as you may have been promoted out of a production role.
Either way process becomes a nut that must be cracked.
Whilst craft and process have been going on, something else would have been occurring and the strange thing is that you may not have notice it happening.
As you interact with colleagues and clients your skills in working with, and getting the best out of people, are increasing.
Some may do it better than others, but the realisation in the best designers is that it isn’t the design itself that propels them to success as much as how their approach reinforces the work they do.
How they influence the people who have hired them to solve their problems or how they team up and lead a group of people to produce a solution is the extra ingredient that sets them apart.
Every young designer should know there are three stages in becoming a design professional who is priceless to clients and invaluable to their employers.
Consultants, lead and inform, recommend without bias, motivate and remain positive and ultimately, regardless of situation, remain professional.
Design the client experience
Remember that you are likely to have received the call from the client because they cannot solve the problem themselves — you are their fixer.
You have a responsibility to them and their customers. Making them feel that you know this fact will ensure you start off from the right place.
Be aware of their issues and have empathy, with the same effort that you think of their customers.
You can provide the catalyst of change through the work you produce — so take your time to know the decision makers that will make your designs thrive within their organisation before it ever reaches a public domain.
Remember that every interaction you have with your clients will either reinforce your design efforts or could diminish your work if you don’t engage appropriately.
This means sharing work that helps communicate internally to all stakeholders. They need to sell your design without you being present and you have a responsibility to ensure that occurs.
Finally, have fun
All of this sounds deadly serious, but it should be fun, for you and especially for those who have hired you. Working together, in a team, is a type of bond that should flourish.
Make an effort to build connections in a social setting if you can. When they start seeing you as partners, it is a special working relationship that if you nurture will help you secure more work and have greater opportunities in your career in the future.