Despite their creativity, practicality and powerful problem-solving skills, designers are often overlooked when it comes to the top jobs. The result of this is that they don’t get involved in strategy. Designers should be involved in decision-making; they could actually transform the business.
This isn’t always the case. Design-led businesses include Apple, Dyson, Google, Nike, Ikea and Uniqlo – all very successful.
In my view, designers should be involved early on in the decision making process. This is partly because they have the technical knowledge of how a product will actually be created and partly because they always have the end user in mind when exploring all design avenues.
I recently attended a Bookmachine talk about Design Thinking, and concluded that although you don’t have to be a designer to practice Design Thinking, it helps!
It got me thinking about the commissioning process. With many large publishers and corporations, the designer’s role is cosmetic. The strategy/brief has often been set by those who are very analytical and like a tried and tested approach; designers are brought in at the end of a project, usually just to make things look pretty. This stifles creative thinking and doesn’t allow for innovation. The budget also reflects the amount of time the powers-that-be expect designers to spend on a project (often very little), allowing minimal time for exploration and experimentation.
A new (for some) way of working
This is how I approach a new project with my smaller clients: we write the brief together and work closely through all stages of the design. There’s no reason why this wouldn’t work in larger publishing houses and businesses.
Step 1: we put ourselves in the mind of the end-user, and dig deep to find out what the problem is. We must never lose sight of who we are creating for, and why we are doing it.
Step 2: once we have clearly defined the problem, we look at my check list and together work out a strategy or brief.
Step 3: this is the experimentation stage, where the design is developed. It helps the designer if the brief is not prescriptive (for example, if we are told by a client that they don’t like blue) and time is allowed for creative thinking. Most of those ideas will end up in the bin, but they are necessary for our design journey.
Step 4: refine the design. Before launching a product or service, feedback should be listened to and acted upon to further refine and improve the design. Some products (for example a website) can be tweaked after launch, but physical products cannot.
Designers need to work with people, rather than for them, for a great design to happen. Keeping designers in the loop will definitely result in a better product and will ensure more profit for the client.
About the author
Annette Peppis leads the team at Peppis Designworks, a creative hub of established publishing industry experts who create books, branding, marketing material and design templates for leading publishers and businesses. Keep in touch by subscribing to Annette’s bi-monthly emails.