Sometimes design is pulling your clients into the future

Designers hold two conflicting attitudes at the same time: optimism and dissatisfaction.

The pushback on your design is not always obvious or visible. It’s not always direct or forceful. Yet there it is, a subtle brushback you get when trying to design something new and different. Maybe it comes in the form of polite but negative feedback. Maybe it comes in the form of a political campaign against you. Or maybe it comes in the form of being ignored…they’re just going to ignore you and hope you go away.

But you’re seeing the future that they don’t see. That makes you different from them on most days. You have to see the future…in fact it’s your job to visualize and design new things that don’t exist yet. You are planners who plan for a future in which today’s problems are solved. For many people the future is uncertain and only means change, which means the pain of not knowing something yet. The future can be scary for a lot of people. But the future is not scary for you.

Designers: Unsatisfied and Optimistic

Designers hold two opposing thoughts in their mind at the same time: you are at once unsatisfied with how things are and optimistic about the future. That’s an odd combination if you think about it. Most optimistic people are not unsatisfied…and most unsatisfied people are not optimistic. Holding those two ideas in the mind at the same time is not easy…it can be a manic ride. Wow…that totally sucks! Ugh…devastated. But WAIT…what if it were like THIS! That would be awesome…let’s go build it!

Any designer who has worked professionally knows that it’s not just about the design, though. It’s about your clients, the stakeholders you’re designing for. You have to make them happy and do work that they appreciate so they’ll tell their friends and you’ll get more work. Or, if you’re at a larger company, you have to show and tell whenever you do design work to point out those details of the future that only you cared about. You have to point out why the future is brighter than the present.

Sometimes other people can see the future with you. But sometimes they can’t. And sometimes your job as designer is to pull your clients, despite their protests, kicking and screaming into the future.

Published: November 6th, 2012