You Are Not Your Design

On Tuesday we had visitors from Carnegie Mellon’s design program in our San Francisco studio. 15 bright-eyed students were given a tour, walked-through our process, and were shown a live demo of our Kinect hack, Hand Drawn. We then fielded some questions from students, such as: How do you deal with difficult clients? Our resident co-founder James Bull spoke about the tendency for designers to think of their design as precious, but how, here at MB, our collaborations with clients have often brought us to our best results, such as with Swisscom.

I think many designers, including myself, have thought about this question before: What creates the better result — design by democracy or autonomy? Surely, Steve Jobs and Apple are a clear example supporting the latter. And how about the unfortunate company merger rebrands that try too hard to please everyone, such as United Continental? My experience at Moving Brands has taught me that a good idea can come from anyone on the team, including the clients. So in theory, if everyone’s goal is to reach the best design, egos aside, this model works. But different people have different end goals, and along the way there are “compromises” made. However, James would argue, “there are no design compromises.” Touché. So, if our job as designer is to solve problems, then you could say a “compromise” is really an opportunity to come up with an even better solution.

When I was a student, I felt design was quite personal too. I remember being told, “nothing is original.” It’s all been done before, so why feel ownership and why get attached? Milton Glasser once said to a class, “you are not your design.” Perhaps, these teachers were preparing their students for the reality that design and the design process is a shared experience — but don’t worry, it’s really not so bad, sometimes it’s actually kind of nice.

(Geigy studio image via Dwell magazine)