What do we need designers for, anyway?

By on Sep 19, 2013 in Site

This article was inspired by Ben Terrett’s insightful talk: I’m a designer, use me better.

What is design, anyway?

“Design” is a broad term that spans a vast range of industries. Strictly speaking, every kind of work includes an element of design, although it may not always be evident initially.

In most cases, and this is especially true when it comes to web and graphic design, a designer is more of a tool than a participant. Our job is to translate the vision of the client (or account manager) into a visual format in some way. Whether it’s creating a logo, building a website, or blueprinting a process for herding cows, designers are expected to take other people’s ideas and translate them into real things.

Misapplied expertise?

It reminds me of another field: pharmacology. I remember once chatting to a friend of mine who was studying to be a pharmacist. Her complaint was that for the past four years she had devoted herself entirely to a very specific field of study: medications and their applications. She had, at the tips of her fingers, chemical solutions to virtually every ailment known to man. Unfortunately for the ailing ill she’d be aiding every day once she achieved her qualification, very few of them would ever experience the benefit of her expertise. Why? Because their medications would be prescribed by doctors, not pharmacists. This seemed to her to be an unjust waste of both her passion and training. Her argument was that the average GP spends less than six months of his or her training learning about medications. Most of their recommendations are based on the success (or failure) of the most recent medical sales rep, rather than 4 years of solid study.

Peculiar thinking

In much the same way, designers tend to be underutilised by those who brief them. A designer has a particular (and peculiar) kind of mind. A designer can visualise the end product. A designer can see the process in action, and imagine how it will all work when it’s done. A typical designer has spent hundreds and thousands of hours investing in their art. They know the ramifications and constraints of the technology available. A good designer knows what can be done – and what can’t. A really good designer can step outside of him or herself and innovate new and original solutions.

Usually, this is not the way we use designers. In most cases, either the client knows what he wants and specifies it very exactly, without allowing for input from his designer, or the marketing team workshops a strategy and the designer is merely the cog on the end, executing their vision.

Now, let me be clear: knowing what you want from your designer is excellent. Workshopping marketing strategy is vital.Applying years of strategic marketing experience to a design brief is good business sense.  A clear and comprehensive design brief will make all the difference in the success of your project. But if your designer is empowered to contribute from the early stages of any project, the results are likely to be both more practical and more innovative. Moreover, the results will be delivered faster since there is far less room for confusion.

So the question today is: can I be of more service to you? As a designer, can I be a significant part of the solution to the problems you face? The answer is yes! Call me and let’s chat about ways to innovate your design requirements.

Vanessa Davies is the illustrious Senior Designer and business owner at aXent Associates. Online marketing, home education, blogging, optimal nutrition and personal growth are high on her list of priorities. You can follow Vanessa on Twitter or .

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