Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Are your designers an Asset or a Liability?"

So you have yourself a design department? Designers. Check. Computers. Check. Software, big computer screens. Check. Check. Maybe even a sample room, and a small library of design books and magazines. Check. Check. Check.

In addition to hiring a talented team, the last piece of the puzzle may be as simple as how your company views design. Are your designers considered an Asset or a Liability? Their success may boil down to if they are viewed as a necessary evil or a vital component to the success of your business.

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to work with many different companies, and witness how they view and manage their design team. From our experience, the most successful companies not only value design but they depend on them. Here are a few key traits of their approach to design:

Location, Location, Location: Where is the design department located? This is a huge indicator of companies that value design. Great companies that value design, give their design team the space to work and in an environment that encourages creativity. Designers don’t have to be front and center, or work in a fancy space, but “creative” companies who understand their design team don’t hide them in the back of the office, with no windows. Try asking someone to have creative vision, when they have no view of the outside world.

Organization: Project information is organized from the initial project download and design brief to communication through to the final presentation. This is another huge factor in keeping the project focused, on track...and on budget. Next to talent, this is one of the most important aspects to consistent design success.

Collaboration: Communication and interaction through-out the design process, between design, sales and estimating. The design process is explored and input given at each phase to ensure success.

Process: Design is given the opportunity to follow a process, from initial research, ideation, to roughs and through estimating and color finals. There is no "Easy" button when it comes to design but a process helps.

Trust: From start to finish, design is “trusted” with all design related decisions, deliverables and time frames. Likewise, the in-house and freelance partners are trusted with all project related information without question.

Scalability: Most successful companies combine a balance of in-house design and a freelance design talent. This provides them with the ability to handle spikes in activity without the long term burden and overhead from a larger design team.

Respect: It’s not just a song. Companies that value design and get the most from their design teams respect the experience, talent and training of their design team. They are valued team members.

Your design team is a function of your ability to pursue new and existing business. It is not the only one, but it is an important cog in the wheel. Whether you view your design team as an asset or a liability, may have more to do with how you view and manage your design department and less to do with their creative solutions.

by Dave Linderman

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