Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Designers and Doctors Have in Common

A recent visit to the doctor got me thinking. Although the medical field is very different than the graphic design field, they share something in common. They both exist to help the patient or client solve a problem they can't solve on their own. Yet, design clients are more willing to tell their designers what the solutions should be than tell their doctor.

Why is that?

It is assumed that doctors have a lot of experience and insight. There is a standard of minimum experience doctors are required to have before practicing medicine. And doctors are required to be licensed. Designers are all over the map in this regard. There is a lack of public understanding of what constitutes a skilled graphic designer, other than their portfolio.

One's own health is more important than their career. The field often requires life-and-death decisions, and doctors can make a significant difference. Design is critical for business success, but it's not often seen that way. It is seen as dressing for the business or product.

Patients go to the doctor expecting analysis and advice. However, too often design clients go to designers with ideas for them to implement.

What can designers do to make their value more apparent?

  1. Help clients understand the roles

    1. Start the conversation off by listening to the client and asking a lot of questions. Then do a lot of writing — no designing. It's not about the aesthetics at this point.

    2. Frame your questions around problems, not solutions. Just like a doctor, you want the client to describe the problem, not give a prescription.

    3. Then make your own analysis (creative brief) and have the client agree to it or help you redefine the problem again.

    4. Don't get in the habit of asking for reviews of your design solutions. It invites aesthetic opinions rather than helpful direction. Instead, ask your clients how the solutions meet the objectives, and how they don't. This produces better insights.

  2. Be part of the solution

    1. Too many up-and-coming designers sell themselves too short or join a crowdsourcing scheme. This is not sustainable for the designer or the design field. Price yourself appropriately, and familiarize yourself with codes of ethics. Check out the AIGA or the Graphic Artist Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to learn more.

    2. Be willing to educate the client and everyone you know about the efficacy of good design. Post articles and research that shows that design has a direct relationship with the financial success of businesses.

    3. Be an advocate for excellence in design. Work with other designers and share what you know. Don't just be a critic. Be a help.
I'm sure there is more we can do as designers — and feel free to share any other insights ‐ but if enough designers did just these few suggestions we can make a real difference.

Photo courtesy Ambro of

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment. But comments with links will be deleted (unless truly helpful).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...