Designing in higher education AND having respect

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

Most professions use a process

Being a designer within a university or college can be tough. You’re most likely surrounded by colleagues who use professional processes everyday. For example, that mathematician down the hall uses defined processes to give him answers. Scientists use processes to understand what is happening in the world around them.

These processes come about because they are often the most logical steps to get from one point to another.

You can quickly feel overwhelmed when trying to understand another industries process. By visually expressing a process it helps ‘outsiders’ come to terms with the logic of each step and shows that it’s actually a very rational solution.

Ironcially the design community struggles to communicate its proven process. As a result our process-driven colleagues come to us and ask us to ‘work our magic’ on their Word files, revealing that they really don’t understand that we also follow a process that’s been developed and tested over and over again.

A lot of what we do is seen as unfathomable — esoteric. It’s as though there’s no rational explanation for how we come up with our creative ideas, as a result, everything that we do is seen as being a subjective solution — it’s an individual designers preference.

Once our solutions are seen as being subjective, they can easily be argued against and overcome. Worse still, we (the professionals) are no longer in control.

People trust process

A process is nothing more than ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end’.

When we fall sick and go to the doctor, there is a process that is followed — diagnosis, prescription and on-going treatment.

Diagnosis informs the doctor what to prescribe. Prescription reveals how we need to be treated and how long we’re treated for.

We follow the same steps in design, only our clients often come in self-diagnosed and tell us how to treat them. It’s topsy-turvy. We are the professionals in this field. Chances are you’ve seen their ‘condition’ on countless occasions and yet often do what they say without challenging them or offering alternatives.

By communicating process to our clients we replace the esoteric gap with demonstrable evidence that what we do works for a reason. No, we don’t go into caves and call on dark earth spirits for guidance, rather, we follow a tried-and-true methodology for converting words and ideas into visual clarity.

When we demonstrate our methodology and show how it has delivered in the past, we are better positioned to encourage our clients to trust in our proven process. It’s trust in the process that allows us to keep holding the reigns.

Communicate your process

Ask your client where it hurts and then start your diagnosis process. Show them a case study that’s similar to the problem they’re experiencing. Show them how you dealt with this in the past. Let your process reveal the real problem. If you’re doing it right you don’t need to twist arms to convince them.

You may get internal clients calling you up looking to get ‘just a website’ designed. The client may be having communication problems with their target audience, so their reasoning may begin with ‘it must be that my website is out-of-date’ (self-diagnosis). They may have evolved from the faculty they once were and now find themselves struggling to articulate their internal core changes to their clients.

They may need to rebrand or start communicating more clearly at certain touchpoints. The diagnosis is different for different people. Your creative process should be able to reveal the underlying problem and provide a creative solution that they have looked over.

Coffee probably won’t earn you respect

Having coffee regularly with your internal clients won’t hurt matters, having good relationships is always worthwhile, but it won’t earn their respect for your design work.

When an external design agency works for a university it’s not because they love having a good chin-wag, it’s because they can demonstrate what it is they’ve done previously.

They are able to connect to the existing problem by demonstrating how they’ve solved similar problems in the past — trust is established.

Show your clients your process, show how it’s worked in the past and get your client to commit to the tried and proven way.

How will you apply this?