Difficult marketers

God they are a pain in the ass. :imp:

You know I was doing some thinking today…(after I wanted to tell one to f-off). I think dealing with difficult people should be tought in design school. We do it everyday. Some more than others. I know this may sound strange and is a life and career growth thing, but at least a bit should be addressed in professional practice. I am not saying that I need training but do see young guys coming in and getting pushed around both on the corporate end and consultant.


I think having a class on presenting your ideas and learning how to influence the process is a great idea. Not a presentation class, a class on influencing the process and navigating systems of people. Learning what feedback to take in, and how to navigate people who don’t understand the vision or who simply want to put their thumb print on things.

“Why we cooperate” is a nice book.


I don’t think this is something you can teach and a good design school by way of process includes this in some form in every project (one reason why I always suggest you should do the undergrad and not just a 2 year masters if you want to be a practicing designer, no matter your background). It’s practiced in every group project dealing with other peers. It’s presenting and arguing your point in a crit. It’s working with the boss or your senior in an internship.

This is certainly something that needs to be learnt by experience. I know I have personally come a long way and would probably punch myself in the throat if I had to deal with the younger, less tactful me of 10 years ago. :slight_smile:


LOL, me too R.

The velvet hammer is a tool that takes time to learn how to use.

Also, as a design leaders, it is important that we ensue that junior designers always understand they can pull in a more senior designer, design manager/director or even VP or CDO to help articulate the larger design strategy and strategic reasons for doing something a certain way. If those reasons don’t exist, then it is really just a question of opinion and who has the louder voice, which is never a win win. The process of setting that larger strategic design vision and ensuring its path to implementation has to be done. This way it is not an individual isolated decision, but part of an entire stream of decisions across multiple product types and media that are designed to reach a desired state.

Indeed, justification of opinion vs. fact vs. hypothesis is also something important to learn. Some issues there is a right and wrong, some there is various shades of grey. Learning the difference and how to communicate the relevant point is key. There is also a difference between an argument and a negotiation.

That said, there are all different kinds of people who could use help in this regard. There are those who cannot stand up for themselves and get walked over, those that stand up for themselves but are bad at making their point, those that have too much passion and don’t know when to back down, etc. I was certainly in the last group when I was younger and now while I still have kept the passion, I know how to better use it as a tool and combine it with other effective persuasion methods.


This is actually what I am referring too. I have to say that I am still find myself a bit in that camp of sometimes being over passionate. What I think would be great is, at least my experience at SCAD, in our professional practice class to teach a bit on negotiation skills and how to sell your design into team members that are not designers. It is easy to get up in front of a room full of designers and give your pitch on why your solution is the best. It is a different story to stand up in front of a room full of marketers or even better your CEO and state why this design will help our bottom line. The conversation and how to frame the conversation is completely different. These are things we need to learn.

This year we hired our first ID intern this year, We positioned her as a junior ID, I told her I was a very hands off manager and I expected her to manage her own projects and meet her own deadlines. Pretty high expectations for an intern. In the 6 months she worked for us she worked on and manged 12 projects and all of them are going to market. I think what made this happen is not only was she VERY mature, but also we gave her the freedom to interact with the marketing, engineering, and design team, and allowed her to grow. Of course if she was to go off track I would pull her back in, but that did not happen often. Along the way myself and my boss and I were giving her guidance on how to approach given issues, how to deal with difficult people, how to think about business issues, as well how to create good design. Because of this I have seen her grow extensively I the last 6 months, She is just starting her 4th year at UC and I would hire her today if I could.

What I am getting at is by doing that intimate training with her she was able to learn address problems differently than some would straight out of school. She learned how to address problems not from a design point of view but from a business point of view. She got to experience one of the projects that she worked on for 4 months get cancelled. This humbled her a bit. Though we were able to teach her this in an internship, and plan to teach others. I know this is very much a hands on learning experience, but it shoudl be touched on in school. If there was a simple exercise of this in school it would better prepare students for the “real world”. We need to better teach our students that the crazy design work that they do in school may not be feasible in the real world and better yet how to deal with that.

Done with my rant.


We had some of those lectures, back in the good old days, when there was
a full “German Diploma” curriculum instead of the much “better” international
bachelor system. It was optional, but you could get yourself into a “Rhetorics”
class and you were free to visit all courses of business majors, if you allowed
yourself the time.

This is part of the truth why I went to U for 5.5 years. (Now, I admitted it!)

This is to be no more. Nowadays bachelor students are expected to cramp
everything into 3 years, which means that even interface design got opted
out. The result of course is some half bake bread.

You really have to concentrate the essence of teaching design into that time.
Business rhetorics has to come later. You can always take a course at your
“spare time” and at least make your boss pay for it.


P.S.: The good times are over. End of rant, too.

Great thread discussion. I will only say that it’s comforting to know people like R weren’t great at this right out of the gate. Watching my boss, who is a pro at this, was a great learning experience for me. I think I’m a little better at it a year later. There’s still lots of room for improvement. It only takes one stakeholder to ‘ruin’ something awesome for a passionate designer. The actual design is the easy part. =)

Very few people are good right away at this. This type of thinking is almost counter to how creative people think. I know when I was right out of school I felt like I shouldn’t have to say anything, the work should speak for itself. Knowing your audience is key. When talking to other designers all they probably need are a few key words, a couple of sketches, and a rough model to be able to share your vision. It took me a long time to empathize with how others think and sometimes they need firmer verbal handles on an idea and how it relates to the business, the organization, and the larger currents in culture.

Could’ve just left it at that.