Design Is A Relationship
MIKE MONTEIRO is a man on a mission. He wants to improve design by fixing the core of it, which is the relationship between designer and client. Too many of us fear our clients—the people whose money keeps our lights on, and who hire us to solve business problems they can’t solve for themselves. And too many clients are even more frustrated and puzzled by their designers than the designers are by the clients.
It’s the designer’s job to fix this, which is why Mike first wrote Design Is A Job, and spent two years taking the message into conference halls and meeting rooms from New Zealand to New York.
I wish every designer could read this book. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine—many of whom I consider far better designers than I am—struggle every day with terrible anxieties over how a client will react to their work. And the problem isn’t limited to web and interaction designers. Anybody who designs anything burns cycles in fear and acrimony. I too waste hours worrying about the client’s reaction—but a dip into Mike’s first book relaxes me like a warm milk bath, and reminds me that collaboration and persuasion are the essence of my craft and well within my power to execute.
If the designer’s side of things were the only part of the problem Mike had addressed, it would be enough. But there is more:
- Next Mike will help clients understand what they should expect from a designer and learn how to hire one they can work with. How he will do that is still a secret—although folks attending An Event Apart San Francisco this week will get a clue.
- Design education is the third leg of the chair, and once he has spread his message to clients, Mike intends to fix that or die trying. As Mike sees it (and I agree) too many design programs turn out students who can defend their work in an academic critique session among their peers, but have no idea how to talk to clients and no comprehension of their problems. We are creating a generation of skilled and talented but only semi-employable designers—designers who, unless they have the luck to learn what their expensive education didn’t teach them, will have miserably frustrating careers and turn out sub-par work that doesn’t solve their clients’ problems.
We web and interaction designers are always seeking to understand our user, and to solve the user’s problems with empathy and compassion. Perhaps we should start with the user who hires us.
Proposed standards for the care and feeding of user generated content
THIS MORNING Contents Magazine launched the beginning of something both good and important: a set of guidelines that could lead to a safer world for user-created content.
Contents believes (and I agree) that products and services which make a business of our stuff—the photos, posts, and comments that we share on their platforms—need to treat our content like it matters. Not like junk that can be flushed the moment a product or service gets acquired or goes under.
On the web, popularity waxes and wanes; beloved services come and go. AOL was once mighty. MySpace was unstoppable. Nobody expected Geocities, Delicious, or Gowalla to just disappear, taking our stories, photos, and memories with them. But that’s what happens on the web. Tomorrow it could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr. We can continue to blindly trust these companies with our family histories, and continue to mourn when they disappear, taking our data with them. Or we can demand something better.
Contents and its small team of advisors have devised three simple rules customer-content-driven services and apps should follow to respect and protect our content:
- Treat our data like it matters. Keep it secure and protect our privacy, of course—but also maintain serious backups and respect our choice to delete any information we’ve contributed.
- No upload without download. Build in export capabilities from day one.
- If you close a system, support data rescue. Provide one financial quarter’s notice between announcing the shutdown and destroying any user-contributed content, public or private, and offer data export during this period. And beyond that three months? Make user-contributed content available for media-cost purchase for one year after shutdown.
You may see this as a pipe dream. Why should a big, successful company like Facebook listen to us? But citizen movements have accomplished plenty in the past, from bringing web standards to our web browsers, to peacefully overthrowing unpopular governments.
I’m on board with the new Contents guidelines and I hope you will be, too. If enough of us raise enough of a sustained fuss over a sufficient period, things will change.
An Event Apart Austin 2012
FOLLOW THE ACTION at An Event Apart Austin – three days of design, code, and content for people who make websites, now taking place in Austin, TX.
Just the tweets.
“In his opening keynote at An Event Apart in Austin, TX 2012 Jeffrey Zeldman talked about the need to keep content front and center in websites and the web design process.” Enjoy Luke Wroblewski’s notes on my presentation, “Content First.”
“In her presentation at An Event Apart in Austin, TX 2012 Sarah Parmenter talked about the changes responsive web design requires of web designers.” Enjoy Luke Wroblewski’s notes from her talk on “Responsive Design Workflow.”
Jason Santa Maria “outlined the current state of web fonts and how to approach typography online.” Luke Wroblewski’s notes on the talk.
My notes on Luke Wroblewski’s AEA Austin presentation.
“In her Content Strategy Roadmap presentation at An Event Apart in Austin TX 2012 Kristina Halvorson talked about how to integrate content strategy into a typical web design workflow.” Enjoy Luke Wroblewski’s notes from her talk.
In this presentation, Ethan Marcotte walks through ways to tackle thorny issues in responsive design layouts, media, advertising, and more. Here are Luke Wroblewksi’s notes on the talk.
“With the explosion of web-enabled devices of all shapes and sizes, the practice of web design and development seems more complex than ever. But if we can learn to see below this overwhelming surface to the underlying web beneath, we can learn to make sites not for specific devices but for the people using them. This presentation will demonstrate how tried and tested principles like REST and progressive enhancement are more important than ever. By embracing the spirit of the web, you can ensure that your websites are backwards compatible and future friendly.” – Jeremy Keith
All the links from Andy Clarke’s amazing AEA Austin presentation.
“Andy Clarke talked about the changing processes in web design and shared a number of tools and techniques that can help designers make transition to a more modern workflow.” Luke Wroblewski’s notes from the talk.
At An Event Apart in Austin TX 2012, Aarron Walter shared why having a personality and story matters for companies. Notes by Luke Wroblewski.
Articles and books cited in the Aarron Walter talk; compiled by AW himself.
Enjoy the Flickr pool of photos from the three-day web design conference event now being held in Austin, TX.
Watch this space!
More to come.
Today at 5PM | Go Forth & Make Awesomeness: Core Values & Action | SXSW Interactive 2012
LESLIE JENSEN-INMAN (@jenseninman), Assistant Professor, The University of Tennessee, created this panel and graciously invited me to be her guest. An alternate name for the panel could be Quit Bitching and Go Make Cool Shit. It’s about personal creative empowerment via sweat, the internet, and the communities it engenders.
Discover how to: embrace your passion, define your purpose, foster your promise, and engage your pursuit. Find out how to do this in a creative environment that encourages collaboration.
- HASH TAG
- Time 5:00pm–6:00pm CST
Date 11th March 2012
- Ballroom A, Austin Convention Center
- Happy Cog Interview
- LANYRD LISTING
- Go Forth & Make Awesomeness: Core Values & Action at SXSW Interactive 2012 | Lanyrd
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:
by Jeff Gothelf – A List Apart
- Draw together
- Show raw work (frequently)
- Teach the discipline
- Be transparent
- Take credit for your wins
by Cassie McDaniel – A List Apart
- Critique as collaborative tool
- Presenting designs
- What is good feedback?
- Negotiate criticism
- The designer as collaborator
by Aarron Walter – A List Apart
- Personality is the platform for emotion
- A history of personality in design
- 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
by Andy Rutledge
You should read this entire brief book, but for now, sample these bits:
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:
- Tell a personal story
- Create emotional experiences for decision makers
- See what’s behind rejections
by Arfa Mirza, Smashing Magazine
- Understand the nature of your client
- Have a rationale for every part of your design
- Show the best design options only
- Defend your design, but don’t become defensive
- Solicit good feedback and benefit from it
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.)
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:
- Positive testimonials
- A thorough design process
- Awards won/published work
- A strong portfolio
- Design affiliations
- Great customer service
- Business Professionalism
- Appropriate questions
Take two minutes to stop SOPA before it passes this week
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do today: help STOP SOPA once and for all.
The Stop Online Piracy Act could pass this week. U.S. friends reading this, call your Representatives now to be heard before the bill is finalized and voted on. Fightforthefuture.org makes it easy. Go there and do this.
We thank you.
Filed under: Advocacy
Veen: Building Typekit on relationships
TYPEKIT FOUNDER JEFFREY VEEN has always shared knowledge freely, whether writing great books about web design and user experience, or (in this case) happily sharing a key secret of his business’ success: raising money isn’t about raising money – it’s about people.
5th annual Blue Beanie Day is November 30, 2011
New! Official Blue Beanie Day 2011 page, with banners and instructions.
Big Web Show No 55: Living with a hidden disability
MARISSA CHRISTINA joins Jeffrey Zeldman and Dan Benjamin to discuss her path as a web designer diagnosed with a debilitating vestibular disorder, and her blog Abledis.com, documenting living with a hidden disability.
You are all in publishing!
ON SUNDAY, while leading a discussion on the future of web design and publishing, I noticed a slightly confused look appearing on some faces in the audience. The discussion had been billed as “Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Internet Design Panel,” and I thought perhaps there was a disconnect for some in the audience between “design” and such topics as where content comes from and who pays for it.
So I asked, “Who here is in publishing?”
A few hands were gently raised.
Uh-huh. “And how many of you work on the web?”
Every right hand in the room shot up.
“You are all in publishing,” I explained.
Now, I like a good rounded corner talk as much as the next designer. I’ve given my share of them. Also of line height and measure, color and contrast, how to design things that don’t work in old versions of Internet Explorer, and so on. In the practice of web and interaction design, there will always be a place for craft discussions—for craft is execution, and ideas without execution are songs without music, meaningless.
But right now (and always) there is a need for design to also be about the big strategic issues. And right now, as much as design is wrestling with open vs. proprietary formats and the old challenges of new devices, design is also very much in the service of applications and publishing. Who gets content, who pays for it, how it is distributed (and how evenly), the balance between broadcast and conversation, editor and user—these are the issues of this moment, and it is designers even more than editors who will answer these riddles.
Filed under: "Digital Curation", Advocacy, Appearances, art direction, Authoring, Best practices, business, Community, conferences, content, content strategy, Design, development, editorial, Education, engagement, Ideas, Micropublishing, Molehill, Platforms, Publications, Publishing, Responsibility, Standards, State of the Web, The Essentials, The Profession, Usability, User Experience, UX, Web Design, Zeldman