One of the hardest challenges for many designers to overcome is learning how to be a better salesman. Many designers freeze up when they see their project being taking in a different direction or get frustrated when colleagues don’t fully understand the concept. As designers, it is very important to remember that we need to connect with others in an effort to drive home our visions and reasons for why we do what we do. There’s just no two ways about it. You must be willing to accept that half of our job is to sell and defend our ideas.
Here is a little trick the pros like to use to help sell their ideas:
Re-frame the concept from the perspective of the particular audience. Okay, what do I mean by that?
The management team has set of particular goals that are important to them. Perhaps it’s to make the most profitable solution ever. The engineering team has a different set of goals like producing a product that is relatively easy to source. The marketing team has another vision, and you have a vision. I’m stereotyping badly here, but you get my point.
A professional and experienced designer knows what the stakeholders are looking for when they review a concept, so they present the concept’s features and benefits differently to appeal to each particular group. It’s called “buy in” and it’s used every day to help navigate product development.
For example, you might try and elaborate on why your concept meets the needs of cost containment to management, how the product can be tooled easily to engineering, or what trends are being addressed to marketing. Once the stakeholders understand the features and then “buy in” to the concept they in turn become advocates for you and help further develop and push the concept forward. This is especially true in the very early stages of concept iteration.
I would encourage every designer to pay attention and really understand what each stakeholder needs out of the final product. Connect, formulate the desire, and present accordingly. In the end, your job as a designer is to get all these groups to congealed so everybody is going forward with the same vision in mind. It’s a balancing act of discovering a solution that is satisfying to every one’s needs because if it doesn’t, well then it’s probably not a well designed solution.
Bradley Derry is an industrial designer and creative team leader whose specialty is to strengthen a company’s capability to delight customers through its product design and brand building. He currently leads a product development team at Innovative Office Products, a premier manufacture of workspace systems and furniture accessories in the Lehigh Valley, Pa. Be sure to visit his site BradleyDerry.com for post updates and connect with him on twitter @Derryest.