11 Jan 2012 10 am eastern

Selling Design – an online reading list

TOMORROW, WHICH IS also my birthday, I begin teaching “Selling Design” to second-year students in the MFA Interaction Design program at School of Visual Arts, New York. Liz Danzico and Steve Heller created and direct the MFA program, and this is my second year teaching this class, whose curriculum I pull out of my little blue beanie.

In this class we explore collaboration and persuasion for interaction designers. Whether you work in a startup, studio, or traditional company; whether you design print, products, purely digital experiences, or any combination thereof; whether you’re the sole proprietor, part of a tightly focused team, or a link in a long chain of connected professionals, it is only by collaborating skillfully with others—and persuading them tactfully and convincingly when points of view differ and yours is right—that you can hope to create designs that make a dent in the universe.

During this spring semester, we’ll explore collaboration and persuasion from many points of view, and hear from (and interact with) many accomplished designers who will serve as special guest speakers. For our opening get-acquainted session, we’ll focus on texts that explore the some of the most basic, traditional (and rarely taught) aspects of design professionalism from the worlds of web, interaction, and print design:

Demystifying Design

by Jeff Gothelf – A List Apart

  1. Draw together
  2. Show raw work (frequently)
  3. Teach the discipline
  4. Be transparent
  5. Take credit for your wins

Design Criticism and the Creative Process

by Cassie McDaniel – A List Apart

  • Critique as collaborative tool
  • Presenting designs
  • What is good feedback?
  • Negotiate criticism
  • The designer as collaborator

Personality in Design

by Aarron Walter – A List Apart

  • Personality is the platform for emotion
  • A history of personality in design
  • Personas
  • Creating a design persona for your website [or other project]
  • Tapbots: Robot love
  • Caronmade: octopi, unicorns, and mustachios
  • Housing Works: a name with a face
  • The power of personality

Design Professionalism

by Andy Rutledge

You should read this entire brief book, but for now, sample these bits:

Do You Suck at Selling Your Ideas?

by Sam Harrison – HOW Magazine

Dyson is used as an example of a product that currently dominates the market, even though nobody initially believed in the inventor’s idea. Lessons:

  1. Tell a personal story
  2. Create emotional experiences for decision makers
  3. See what’s behind rejections

How to sell your design effectively to the client

by Arfa Mirza, Smashing Magazine

  1. Understand the nature of your client
  2. Have a rationale for every part of your design
  3. Show the best design options only
  4. Defend your design, but don’t become defensive
  5. Solicit good feedback and benefit from it

Money: How to sell the value of design – an email conversation

by Jacob Cass – Just Creative

Narrative of standing up to new-client pressure to do something against the designer’s self-interest, or which devalues design. Story told here is about money but it could be about any designer/client conflict in which the designer needs to gently educate the client. (Some designer/client conflicts require the client to educate the designer, but that’s another matter.)

How to choose a logo designer

by Jacob Cass – Just Creative

Basic article outlines ten background materials any designer (not just logo designers) should prepare to encourage confidence on the client’s part:

  1. Experience
  2. Positive testimonials
  3. A thorough design process
  4. Awards won/published work
  5. A strong portfolio
  6. Price
  7. Design affiliations
  8. Great customer service
  9. Business Professionalism
  10. Appropriate questions

Filed under: "Digital Curation", Advocacy, Best practices, business, Career, Design, SVA, Teaching, The Essentials, The Profession

12 Responses to “Selling Design – an online reading list”

  1. Chris OBrien said on

    Thanks for this list. I wish there were classes like that available when I was a college student!

  2. Selling Design | Small & Simple Thoughts said on

    [...] the heels of that news, comes this announcement of curriculum by Jeffrey Zeldman. Zeldman is beginning a course titled “Selling Design” at the MFA [...]

  3. Staubsauger said on

    Ok, bookmarked for the weekend :) btw – the typo-settings of your blog are really amazing, damn good to read.

  4. CK Hicks said on

    Really appreciate the reading list – thanks much for your continued leadership on the world-wide-interwebs!

  5. Dean Marshall said on

    Small correction.

    The link for Andy Rutledge’s
    ‘Distractions: Pitches and Spec Work’ should point to

    Currently it points to the same address as the previous link ‘Distractions: Contests and Awards’.

    By my calculation there is about a year’s worth of reading there. And I’m sure the list will keep on growing ;)

  6. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @Dean Marshall: Thanks! Link has been corrected. :)

  7. Ross Johnson said on

    This is a must read list for any designer, regardless if they are freelance, own an agency or design in house.

    @Chris OBrien, I agree! The slow moving engines of most schools and universities seems to leave so many programs behind the time. Even the “forward thinking” schools have a hard time getting the resources to create timely design curriculum.

  8. Don Ulrich said on

    An understanding of the design process and what design for communication is.
    Smaller populations/cultures actually need this more than larger populations/cultures do.

    In smaller cultural centers the local input to the web struggles to reach its audience and once they find it have to work twice as hard to maintain that audience. Interaction in smaller markets is also weak.

    I’m dealing with two clients now that I am educating as we go and have had to build relationships with. This morning the topic is continuity in message between print and web and the dissemination of your message.

  9. Hendrik said on

    Great post and happy birthday!

  10. Mike said on

    Almost all designers can create beautiful design and great user experience but only few are good at sales and it all that matters in this industry. If you know how to pull your ideas in front of as many people as possible there are higher chance to sell your design.
    This selling includes many things, like brand awareness and story that you hold and know how to tell to your client.

  11. tinabeans said on

    is there going to be a list every week? because there totally should be.

  12. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    is there going to be a list every week? because there totally should be.

    Whenever there is reading, there will be a list here.

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