“The biggest myth ever perpetuated in the design field is that good design sells itself.”
I wanted to learn about design so googled up “best books on design”.
Design is a Job
by Mike Monteiro was consistently high on the lists. So I bought it.
Design Is A Job is not about design. It’s about the business of design. About running a Design practice.
About getting work, selling proposals, agreeing contracts.
And the knowledge in the books can very well be applied to other (creative) businesses.
Design is a business
Work for Money. You are in business.
Anything I have to tell you can be summed up thusly: charge as much as you can, deliver an honest value, and never work for free. Unfortunately, most designers feel such pangs of guilt about.
The secrets to getting the price you want for your work are having done the homework to know you’re asking for the right thing, the confidence to ask for it, and the willingness to walk away when you can’t get it.
Monteiro breaks down the magical mystery of design and creative work.
All well, but it is a business.
The myth of the magical creative is alive and well, and it’s powerful.
A designer requires honest feedback and real criticism, and that’s not going to happen in a realm where colleagues or clients are worried about crushing the spirit of a magical being.
A designer is solving a problem. Design has no purpose in itself in itself.
A DESIGNER SOLVES PROBLEMS WITHIN A SET OF CONSTRAINTS.
… any design task you undertake must serve a goal. It’s your job to find out what those goals are.
To achieve these goals, the designer must gather
information about her clients and their goals. What do they want to achieve, what is the context in which they are operating, what their financial constraints are.
She does not operate in a vacuum.
Figure out what the client really wants early Most clients will approach you with a wish list of desires. If they don’t you should actually work with them on coming up with one. Assign a cost and a benefit to each one.
Finding a fit between client and designer is not just a concern that the client should be concerned about. You as the designer should also be critical to what customers you ‘hire’.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are evaluating the potential client as much as they are evaluating you. Prospective clients sometimes find this surprising.
I totally encourage you to go after clients you want to work for. Let’s just be realistic about the return on this type of business development. It is very, very low.
The clients you choose to take on define you. Your portfolio needs to tell a story and each client you add to it is another chapter in that story. Make sure you’re consciously building the story you want to be telling.
Monteiro recommends a free customer screener tool he provides on his web site:
If you’re here it’s probably because you bought my book and read all the way to page 18, where I promised you a screener for ferreting out whether you’re talking to the right clients or not. Well, here it is.
Interaction with the customer directly is extremely important. Under no circumstances should you just deliver the work and leave it with the client.
Selling your work directly to clients is extremely important. Not only should you be able to explain why you made the decisions you did, but you’ll get first-hand feedback on where the work needs to go next.
Look for clients who have clear goals, not detailed punch lists. This is especially true of RFPs that require you to reply directly to each line item at the risk of being disqualified from the process. You don’t want to sign up for a process that you know is broken from the start. Once you set sail on a boat you can’t convince a captain to take to the sky.
The job of a designer is not just doing the design work, it is doing the research, the selling, but also to assure having great interaction with the client. You will have to make an effort to help the client understand what you have created.
Not knowing the design language doesn’t make someone a bad client. I doubt very much that most of you could have a medical conversation with your doctor on par with a conversation your doctor could have with another doctor, and that doesn’t make you a bad patient.
It’s your job as a designer, and a communication professional, to find the right language to communicate with your client. When you say a client doesn’t “get it” you might as well be saying, “I couldn’t figure out how to get my point across. I am a lazy designer. Please take all my clients from me.”
The biggest myth ever perpetuated in the design field is that good design sells itself.
Not only gives this the designer the ability to differentiate from the competition, it also helps build a good relationship with the client. Giving him the opportunity for feedback.
Being able to present your own work is a core design skill. It helps build rapport with the client. It puts the person directly responsible for the work in front of them. It shows them that you’re presenting that work with confidence. And it gives them an opportunity to ask questions directly of the person who did the work.
With this feedback, discuss improvements with your client. But don not let them change the core of the product your have designed for them. Negotiate.
Your first job is to separate the actionable feedback from the non-actionable feedback. Sometimes clients just like to document their thought process. Your job is to sift through and find the actionable from the non-actionable.
And smartly negotiate about the changes a customer wants.
“I once argued with a client for an hour over an issue I didn’t care about (eventually letting him win!), because I really cared about the next issue coming up. At that point, he was so tired out and savoring his victory
About the jobs you choose and the way you design, Monteiro is also idealistic. Your work should improve the world. Serve to create a better world. Leave something lasting behind. Ignite change. He refers to Victor Papanek’s seminal work.
Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World, which I will bluntly summarize like so: you are responsible for the work you put into the world.
I urge each and every one of you to seek out projects that leave the world a better place than you found it. We used to design ways to get to the moon; now we design ways to never have to get out of bed. You have the power to change that.
Then about organizing the work. Making sure things get done, coordinated, all the people are working together.
Working with the project manger.
Just as you’re responsible for the quality of a project, your project manager is responsible for getting it done on time. And with the maximum amount of profit. This doesn’t mean you’re not both thinking about those things. It means you each own your part of the project. This often leads to tension, as your ultimate goal is to do good work, and the project manager’s ultimate goal is to do the work on time. And that’s pretty much how it should work.
The book is packed with great business practice advice for creative businesses.
And it includes a extensive categorized book list for further reading. Because
Perpetual intellectual curiosity is the greatest resource a professional designer can have. Barring that, an island hideaway is nice.
What to read next.