I hate titles

Why design titles are just like toothpaste.

February 14, 2019

A LinkedIn connection of mine posted a document yesterday asking what titles his connections give themselves. The post contained 20 different variants of designer titles, here are a few:

  • UX Designer
  • UI Designer
  • Design Researcher
  • Creative Director
  • Design Lead
  • Senior Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Digital Designer


Oi vey. That's only half. And he didn't even cover all of the options out there. You might be thinking, isn't the point to distinguish ourselves from people? Yes, it is, but it has to be done in a way that matters to the people that make the purchasing decision. Most business owners don't know the difference between UX and UI, hell most people who ascribe the title to themselves don't even know the difference.

It's like the pointless variants of toothpaste:

  • Anti-cavity (shouldn't all toothpaste be anti-cavity?)
  • Breath freshening (no shit, is the alternative a toothpaste that makes my breath smell bad?)
  • Fighting Gingivitis (isn't that the job of floss?)
  • Daily Repair (what else is it supposed to do?)

The only variant of toothpaste that makes sense to a user is when it speaks to a particular need of theirs. Like sensitive teeth being addressed by Sensodyne, who focused on people with this issue entirely.

Now let's apply the same thinking to some of these design titles:

  • Design Researcher (shouldn't all design be based on research?)
  • Digital Designer (if you use a computer and you're a designer, you are a digital designer)
  • UX Designer (99% of the world doesn't know what you do and the term user experience is applicable to everything)
  • UI Designer (isn't this the same as graphic design except digital?)

Here's the thing: these titles do nothing for the person on the other side of the table, you know that person who pays money for design services.

What's the solution you ask? Try this:
I'm a designer, I craft things with intention. I've got a portfolio of work and case studies to show the problems I solve. Do any of these sound like you? Cool, let's make something happen.

More you say?

Payment Alternatives

Different ways design services can be priced and paid for.

3.2.2020

In my last article, I touched on the fact that I don't bill by the hour. In summary, hourly billing is a loose-cannon way of determining the value services bring to the table and one that favors things taking longer rather than being done efficiently and strategically.

It begs the question though, how do you structure payment for such services? The way I see it, there are three options:

Pay for design services up front
This is the most common method of paying for design services. It's pretty straightforward, client and designer decide on a price based on the value created through the services, client pays for the work, and the designer does the work. Usually the payment is made upfront or on a specific cadence like 50% to start and 50% after 30 days or before deliverables are transferred.

Lease the design work
It's no secret that good designers charge a pretty penny for their work. At least, they will charge a pretty penny to part ways with ownership of it. This is where leasing becomes a viable option to get quality work, but without the initial upfront cost of buying the rights to the work out-right. For example, let's say an identity package of a new logo and style guide will cost $6,725. Rather than paying for the entire thing upfront, the client could pay 8% of the total cost per month to get up and running. If the client decides they want full ownership of the work, there is a clause within the contract stating how much the buy-out fee will be in addition to the lease payment.

Profit sharing
If the client is willing to share profits based on the impact the design work has had on the business, then a third option becomes available. Similar to trading equity, profit sharing or performance-based compensation puts everyone's time and resources on the line. The designer and client establish the key metrics they are looking to improve and then share profits based on the value generated from the change.

When it comes to pricing design services, the key is to be as creative and nimble with pricing as would be expected in the actual work. The next time you speak with a designer and you want to work with them, but can't afford to pay their fees, see if they are open to these alternative pricing structures.

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Defining "Design" and What it Means for Startups

No, it's not making things pretty.

5.1.2020

There are big elements of design and there are small elements. Both are necessary if you want to use design as an asset within your startup.

Design is the process of crafting with intention. This sets the trajectory for allowing design to be an integral part of your startup. In fact, it speaks to the idea that it should be intrinsically woven into every decision the company makes. If you act with the purpose of achieve a specific goal, you are designing. The opposite would be aimlessness or choosing to craft without purpose.

While such endeavors can lead to interesting results, it's not the best mindset to adopt with investors breathing down your neck or crucial deadlines looming int he background. Choosing to adopt a design-driven mindset is what allows you to measure progress and iterate with precision. In short, design turns wandering ideas into obtainable goals.

That's way different than making things prettier.

Yes, this concept tends to be confined within the areas of improving the aesthetic of apps, websites, interiors, products, or brand identities (a bunch of small elements), but these outlets don't give it power. Look beyond aesthetic and focus on creating things with purpose. How you want them to make people feel, what you want them to do, the goals a project is supposed to achieve.

I guess the main point is this: if you see design as only making things look pretty, even the things you want to look pretty will fall short of expectation. But, if you decide to see design as crafting with intention, you will be able to get results... and maybe make something beautiful int he process.

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