The Dirty D word

Its easy to find articles written about a VP of Design or Chief of Creative, yet these roles don’t exist at many companies. For a passionate designer, working in a company without this level is often a challenge. As a designer, you inherently know the value and power of design through your education and process, and you don’t have to talk yourself into the value it brings. Yet, sometimes the people and executives who surround you lack similar design backgrounds and may not work through similar processes.

Explaining the benefit in their terms is critical in these cases. Your CEO or VP are not likely to care much about “kerning” or the intricacies of a ruled surface as much as you. Not because they don’t understand, but because they aren’t focused on it. Their focus is on the top level and how it benefits the company.

To get the “D” word used at the top of your company:

1) Learn the language and keywords of your business at the CEO and VP level, dont talk about design thinking. Align that language with your design vocabulary and translate and use their language to communicate.

2) Talk about rational items and benefits, dont get emotional about the design — leave the visuals and imagery to evoke the desire and emotion behind the design.

3) Speak to balanced decision-making and how your study of context has led you to a good decision-making process. Any company prides itself on good decisions and your top brass will see that.

4) Let the design speak for itself. Let your audience make the emotional connection, appreciate the beauty and discover the desire. Dont speak regarding the emotions of the design; emotion will always pin your opinion as a subjective where value is perceived as lesser to other business issues. Use logical and everyday analogies that are pragmatic and show business success.

5) Be persistent and consistent. Design mindedness in upper management can take years — establishing champions and allies within your company is part of this. Being consistent and persistent will help you in the long run.

Finally, just like a design agency, don’t jump into final deliverable when presenting work. Preface with context. Explain the parameters of business that you investigated embarking on the design and the lengths you went to understand. Context and realization provide teams with a good understanding of your balanced view. The balanced view instantly makes you more appealing. After rationalizing, reveal your design, and your design will speak for itself. It will connect on the emotional level and they will see the visual beauty — but let the design do the work. If the design is great they will connect the rational and emotional at a level beyond what you could have explained.