Roles every great designer must play

WEB DESIGN | August 20, 2015

As said by Paul Rand, “Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”

And thus, designers do not bear the mere responsibility of coding a website. They need to do much more. As per the prevalent trend, designers are much in demand now and thus their work does not only encompass themselves. This is indicative of the fact that, they have to work in collaboration with some departments they might have not worked before, such as marketing and business development, etc. So, a designer cannot just limit himself up to the position of chalking the design for a website.

The more diversified the roles of his coworkers get; the more competent he himself has to be. He should be a versatile person, in order to sustain his position firmly in the market of trends.

Here are enlisted some of the most important qualities that one should inculcate in his oeuvre while working as an, in house designer.

Be the leader

When thought from a layman’s point of view, a designer implements those designs which they are supposed to and end it over there and resign back to rest. But that is not what actually great designers do. To lead ahead, you need to have the ‘X factor’ within you. You need to know that the reason why you are hired for, is not as much concerned with your designs as it is concerned with your taking the responsibility of the design produced. Being the resident expert, you actually need to act out your post. You can do so by being proactive and looking after every smaller detailing, rather than waiting for the decisions. But this does not mean that you will have to boss around and compel your decisions on the people around you. Jared Spool once said, “You can’t be present for every design decision, so part of your responsibility is to raise the bar of design competence for all team members.” What you actually need to do as a leader is guide your coworkers and chisel out the best usable idea possible, by putting everyone’s suggestions into consideration.

When working with several other people, arguments are inevitable. But there’s no point in arguing with the facts. To prove your point and to let the stakeholders understand how making the design decisions now end up with good results; you should always show your team the results of usability testing. And nevertheless, the usage of one of your best talents- visual aids; to explain your decisions, fetches you some extra points. Last but not the least, being equipped with the power of conviction for your decisions is what actually lets you soar high.

Be the facilitator

As a designer, you are that only person who holds a unique position of being able to bring different departments together. Your expertise is design, and you will have to keep in mind that the other departments are not your forte. Putting the perspectives of your coworkers on their domains of expertise, into consideration; helps you in sculpting out the design that would more satisfactorily quench the demands of your project.

The beginning of a project is the most crucial time for a project. Holding meetings with everyone in the project often gives you an exposure to everyone’s ideas, thoughts, and fears regarding the project.

Always remember that the closer a project approaches its implementation, the more crucial the opinion of the developer becomes. Thus, you always need to get feedbacks early and get them often.

Be the generalist

Just getting feedbacks, makes no sense. You need to chalk, on how to implement and what to implement.

If IDEO’s Tim Brown’s ‘T shaped’ concept is studied, there is a clear-cut demonstration of the fact that the wider the breadth of your understanding is, the deeper your creativeness grows.

Being a facilitator you get ideas from everybody. But its the quality of a generalist that teaches you how to put them together into something that would actually work. To make it crisp, being a generalist diversifies your horizons.

Taking business classes, talking up with business associates, or simply going through several business news or topics online; helps you out in honing your own business skills. This allows you to have deeper insights into the goals that your design is meant for. Another means for amplifying the realms of your knowledge is to learn coding. Although a designer does not necessarily code, but having knowledge of it, lets you have a better communication and understanding with the developer of the project.

Be the user advocate

The itinerary to success is very limited if you are just focused on the mechanical designing. Knowing your user’s inside and out takes you farther. The success of a designer’s creation is based on his understanding of the needs of his user. Designs based on personal choices with no reference to usability studies, demographic data or business goals; are futile. Designers should prioritize their users more than their own instincts.

To be a genuine advocate, you must conduct researches based on their habits through usability studies. Determine the tests that are usable for you and conduct them. Once done with these steps, turn that data into something that could be used by your design team-

  • Personas- They are the fictional characters to represent your users for reference purposes during the process.
  • User scenario- They take the personas further by giving them tasks to perform and analyzing the steps taken by them to complete it.

The greater part of this role actually depends upon how well you can colligate with or empathize the needs of your user. In one of their articles for Fast Company, Jon Burgstone and Bill Murphy Jr., explains that customers first seek to avoid pain than pursuing pleasure. So, as a designer, you have to be more empathetic towards their pain and assuage it in your design together with finding new designs that would gratify their needs that the other competitors are incognizant. Great designers prognosticate the demands of their users before they want it. 

Be the analytic

Dalai lama once said, “The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.”

A great designer is also a great analyst because he knows how to gather, interpret and apply the data. He understands how the data variables fit into the bigger picture to make it more realistic. Thus, he does much more than mere incorporation of all the test results into the final design.

A designer should discover the root of any problem. A simple and keen study of all the reports reveal that where the users are bogging down, or where they are not able to reach and where they are actually reaching. These analytics assist you in understanding the source of your problems.

Qualitative data such as user reviews and surveys give the users a chance to express themselves more clearly. But these are often biased. A designer must be balanced enough to strain these data through his own common sense, or else he will end up using them in a misguided manner.

It is only that ‘oomph’ factor which differentiates ‘try’ from ‘triumph’! These above-mentioned roles serve to flesh out the ‘great you’ from the ‘good you’. Doing barely the minimum fetches you barely minimum positions.

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