Anybody else feel like this some days?

A friend of mine posted this on FB and I know there are some days I feel like this happens, some days I do a better job of preventing it.

I would say there isn’t a designer out there who has products that go to market that hasn’t felt like this. I have always believed their is a fin balance of all the different groups and maintaining design intent. some times you win some times you loose. and sometimes it is completely out side of you sphere of influence…

Have you guys read The Fountainhead? Roark wouldn’t have this issue!

Right, he’d just blow it up :slight_smile:

Yeah, but in Roark’s case he would have started with the last sketch, and the #$*@$ in the commie city government would have ornamented his PURE CLEAN STARK HARD design with all the other baloney.

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I assume it’s always going to be a negotiation, and honestly I usually come to support most of the design changes because they tend to happen for good reasons, but I do a lot of medical work so the big overarching vision is secondary to patient efficacy. Some of the best victories are also on programs that get killed after a good development process reveals an idea originally thought to be good, to be not so good after all.

It is true, it is the way of all things. Some days it feels like a heavier burden than others. I saw this cartoon and immediately connected with it. I posted it on instagram and it got 4,000+ likes so clearly it must touch on something!

On this thought of being prepared to negotiate, my team and I had our annual strategic offsite a couple of weeks ago. To prepare I always give people homework and ask them what they would like me to talk about. One of the asks of me was to prepare a talk on how to communicate better. Bellow are some of the slides that reaped what I said.

Communication requires two 'N’s. Sorry typo snark. This is great, thank you for sharing.

Ha, thanks, good catch… fixed it.

Execution is what separates great designers from great concept artists.

Most of us are capable of conceiving amazing products, being able to push as much of that intent through the pipeline requires communication, politics, negotiation and enough craftiness to keep the intent alive and delivering what the customer deserves.

It’s that whole process of understanding the team’s priorities and making tradeoffs in such a way that even if there are huge form/aesthetic changes, the user benefits we’re designing stay intact.

You are describing a good salesperson. I couldn’t agree more. It is an area where I am lacking a good reason for me not to be VP of NPD. At that level, great sales is required and technical knowledge is only desired.

Don’t forget good golf skills. Can’t be a VP without a good swing. :wink: #reasonsI’llnevergetahead

The further I get, the more I think Mike Rowe is right. The best way to do something extraordinary is to find a boss that doesn’t care. Of my top 3 products, one of them I can’t remember getting any feedback beyond, “I guess that’s alright”. Somehow it kept getting approved in spite of me not selling it or building coalitions to move it ahead.

On the other hand, I’ve had projects where I was prepared. I did build excitement. I did build a coalition across the company to support the project. Then the president canned it after a 12 minute presentation. When I think of that, I wonder how presidents think. The presidents reaction, in addition to some other stuff, lead a big portion of the team to leave the company! He ignored the research, analysis and passion of 80% of the development team without even a tepid vision of his own. I think there is an important lesson there for executives that want to engage their team!

Of the other two projects, one just kinda happened. It was a small team and we were already well aligned. The other project I’m proud of was a contract at an established company that just knew what it was doing.

Back to the cartoon though: I think the only change I would make is that I often see the concept sketch is like an M.C. Escher drawing. I realize, ‘oh, we’re gonna need part line there, some screws here, the LCD is going to have to be square instead of a triangle.’ and I make those mental adjustments. The non-designers don’t. All of a sudden we are getting pre-production samples that don’t look anything like the concept sketches and everyone is confused and disappointed!

bumping this one. :slight_smile:

I made this mistake, bit with 3d models, when I started at my most recent position.

I had an quick cad model on screen that was ‘indicitive’ of the idea, while I worked out how to break it up into parts, a picture of which the business manager hastily sent to the customer for feedback.

The next day they ordered it and the manager wanted it manufactured asap.

Note that non-designers don’t always know the difference between a basic 3d model and one that it ready for production.

Re the first image, has anybody just ploughed ahead with what they thought was right and ignored the opposing feedback by higher ups? If so how did it go?

It is risky to plough ahead. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

A few years back I was working on a high end home theater system. The top of the speakers were machined chunks of aluminum with a secondary array of drivers angled to bounce sounds off the ceiling and give a sense of height as well as surround. For example, if a blueray had this codec, helicopter sounds in a movie would actually be coming from above you. It is a niche thing but home theater geeks love it.

To show the tech off, and to highlight the materiality, I wanted to clear anodize the modules (basically the top 5 inches on a 4ft tall speaker). We showed it to the biggest retailers and most of them loved it or accepted it, except one smaller retailer and another exec who wanted it to be black for personal preference.

This ended up in a disagreement. I had the data of the retailers on my side as well as a story to support it based on the material and drawing attention to this new technology. The exec had “I don’t like it and I wouldn’t buy it” even though he wasn’t in to high end audio anyway. After a long debate I was told to make them black or basically it was insinuated I would loose my job. I capitulated and made them black.

Fast forward a few months. The first few sets of speakers were being flown in for a press preview. They were shipped to the labs for testing where they would be turned around in 24 hours and sent to NY for the press event. I went to the labs for the unboxing… and… they were silver finished! There was a miscommunication with the vendor and the silver finish stayed (I say silver because one of the parts in the top had to be steel, so to make it all match we had to go to a silver, we basically matched a MacBook… that is another story). The engineering team came up with a plan to send them to an automotive shop to have them painted black. I reviewed the plan and then told the team I was glad they developed it because they have a good CYA back story. I then approved them as is and sent them to the press preview in the silver finish and told the team I would take the heat.

Long story short, the other executive was not happy, but the press loved the silver. They ended up on the cover of the most important home theater magazine, something the brand had never had. The silver went to production and retail sell in was 500% higher than the sales of the prior flagship model… but the relationship with the executive was never the same (even though he ended up looking great because of it).

So, my point is, be sure you define what success is. Is “a win” getting the product exactly how it should be, or is “a win” building trust and relationships so you can more consistently do the right thing on product?

I had a bar code scanner that I worked on that was purely a high end design story. The president of the company at the time forced it ahead and we fought very hard not to water down or compromise the design. It wound up winning a ton of design awards but ultimately was a total commercial flop. I was excited to see they sold some to a select few high end retailers like Brooks Brothers and it’s even at the check in of the Cooper Hewitt Design museum, but beyond that it was clear that the organization didn’t have a problem with selling products and higher end didn’t work in a commodity driven market place where the value was still perceived as equivalent.