Business Practices

This new forum will be devoted to the sharing of advice and council around conducting the business of design. From Dr Phil like advice to useable data facts and figures, we hope to create a forum that helps everyone in the design practice achieve greater success.

Feel free to create a topic or add your own experiences to the list that has started.
Although mostly geared around the consulting game, we are hoping many of the comments and back a forth should be of intest to Corporate and student designers as well.


Thanks to all for the responses so far and for the thoughtful nature of those expressed to date.

I’ve worked at a design company for the past 8 months and I can attest to how a successful working environment operates. My background is in public relations and advertising, and I work in marketing communications but I truly believe that what makes our company thrive is the rapport that the employers here have with each other. Design companies are not only about creativity, but also the ability to be creative with others, to bounces ideas and concepts back and forth; and the best way to acheive success in this is to have a flexible, friendly working environment based on collaboration and not competition.

very cool

I want to share some thoughts and I would love some advice. First I work at the largest high end bicycle mfg’r in the world. It is a truly dynamic company that functions under some very sound business practices. ID has grown from 4 to 12 in the last 4 years. Or group is populated by ex-director level consultant types, seasoned corporate veterans and a handful of newbies. Our presence is not only sought after but used as a sales tool for the great dealer network and end users.

While they understand we do something they love and value there is still a sense of “they make pretty.” Often our process isn’t valued nor is design quite recognized as a profession. We find that many of the people we work with are less interested in how we do it…they just want the thing we deliver. We can live with that for now, though, we know we provide so much more.

Lately we have used a strategy of collaborate or circumvent … less talk, more rock as a collegue puts it… to keep our influence growing. In collaboration we work to educate by engaging our partners at the team level. If that does not work we just rock, they become happy and we explain what and how we did it after we are done. This may not be the best practice but it allows other teams to “discover” design methodologies and in turn use them in their area of expertise. For now it works. The more we ‘do’, the more people want what we do. Still, they don’t much care for the process. So the question is, how do we engage them to help them understand how valuable the design process can be to their job function?

I would love to hear other thoughts as long as they aren’t utopian consultant speak because frankly, ex pro bicyclist marketing managers don’t care. …any sales driven design practices? …that they get!

Two questions I would ask is how does your company go about planning their product offerings and how are you, asigned projects? Do you the design team, have an active role or are projects handed to you in a brief? Participating in the planning/stratigic stage is one key way to get the others interested an involved in your contribution and in a deeper way in the design process.

Extending the design team to include them in observational research, brainstorms, etc… is another.

One way I like to say it is Design can be a verb not just a noun. That sort of redefines it as process instead of only an object. A process that can then be designed to allow others to participate in it.

we get projects both ways. currently it is about 50/50 and design in the planning phase of lines is growing greatly. we have seen great benefit including PM’s in our research and initial phases…in fact the research and definition projects have seen the greatest return. of note, including them in the process has been a great asset to us and to them. currently they keep asking for more. this is exciting.

the ‘but’ question: what do you say if a customer/partner says, “designers love to throw out fancy ways of describing things but the verb vs noun arguement is bullsh*t. We just need you to design this and stop overthinking it.” that statement has been thrown out in various contexts several times.

I guess the big question is how do other designers reaffirm their value without looking like they are “wasting” time “overthinking” a problem?

I have no hard data to support this assertion, but in my experience, explaining process (especially to a salesguy) = banality.

When you go into the minutiae of how you do what do and why it is unique or interesting, all eyes glass over and you lose your “je ne sais quoi” which is soooo important to maintain as a designer. (This is why the europeans are so successful and dominant as creatives)

Sales guys will always want what makes it “prettier”, but they do not want to know why or how it is accomplished. If you try to get them to appreciate “why” it is beautiful or cool then you acutally trip the banality wire and deflate the appreciation level of what you do as a designer to the sales professional or whoever else is on the team. To them you are now on their turf as a bullshitter and there is no one who thinks of themsleves a better bullshitter than a sales guy. (Save the etherial design discussions for your design students that you teach)

If you are asked to design something from a strict brief for someone or a group, gather their thoughts and opinions and then weave them into your design.

If you are presenting a design that is of of your own volition, make absolutly sure to include the egos of the those that have proceeded you and paved the way for a successful market of what ever you are trying to improve. Put all those involved with the project into the design. Give everyone their “mark” on creating a smart and intelligent innovation. Just don’t try to exlain how you did it. Even if they ask, be vague and use lots of hyperbole as you cleverly tell them how it was their idea that lead to a particular feature or detail.