I came across two excellent pieces on design and buying design yesterday, both via a US-based mobile design guru named Luke Wroblewski.
First, Wroblewski’s notes from a presentation by Mike Monteiro at a recent An Event Apart conference in San Francisco. Monteiro’s presentation was targeted to designers and was titled What Clients Don’t Know (and Why It’s Your Fault).
The whole thing is absolutely worth a read, but here are a few points that stood out to me:
Words of Wisdom for Designers
- Clients may know what they need but don’t know how to express it. You need to make them feel smarter for talking to you.
- “But they never ask me!” If you insist on acting like a dis-enfranchised creative, that’s how you will be treated. Go to meetings and add value. Stop waiting for an invitation to do your job. Assert yourself. Make a case for how your contribution will help make a great product.
- Make clients feel confident you have a clear path to success. Otherwise, they’ll step in. You have no one to blame when someone decides they have to do the job you’re not.
- Most clients are trying to do the right thing. We need to help them and not complain about the things they don’t understand. Stop trying to read minds and communicate.
- And, finally, don’t take jobs that you can’t be successful at. Let clients know up front if you’re not a good fit for each other. Ultimately, this will benefit both of you.
A recurring theme is the importance of empathy, which is something our own Danny Limanseta explored in a post here a little while back.
On the flip side, Wroblewski also linked to an excellent piece by Will Harris on how clients should work with designers. Again, the whole thing is worth a read—whether you’re a designer or a client—but here are the two points that resonated most strongly with me:
Words of Wisdom for People Buying Design
- Do your research and be specific about your needs. “I need to sell meeting planners on the idea of hiring me to plan entertainment for their events.” That’s clear and specific about both the product and the audience. The more detailed and specific you are at the start, the better the designer can tailor the site to your needs.
- Have good reasons for your preferences. You can show the designer sites that appeal to you, but dig deeper and figure out why they speak to you … Design makes you feel, so tell your designer how it makes you feel. Instead of saying, “I like yellow,” get to the root of it and say “I want a site that feels warm,” or “I want something upbeat and friendly.” Focusing on your logical or emotional impressions give the designer more to work with. Why? Because your customers may not “like” the same things you do, but a good designer can convey the impression you want them to have.
In my experience on both the client and design sides of the fence, I’d say that these are the two areas where clients have the most difficultly. We, as clients, want to go straight into design without first investing the time and thought into a clear articulation of the problem(s) we need the design to solve—aka the brief.
And, because responding to design is not something we do often, we also have a natural tendency to fall into over-personalizing our responses—the old, “I don’t like yellow” reflex, which isn’t particularly helpful. This is another reason why it’s so critical for clients to invest the time required to craft a clear and honest brief. It’s the one shared touchstone between client and designer and, if we as clients want designers to take it seriously, we should endeavor to always ground our own feedback in the objectives articulated in that brief.
Give both pieces a read if you have a chance and, if you’re interested in interaction design in general and mobile design in particular, Wroblewski is a great person to follow on Twitter.