Hairy Arms, Painting Ducks, and Design Decisions

Last week, I volunteered at UXPA’s talk by Tom Greever on the topic of how to articulate design decisions.

Coming from a business background, I resonated every single piece of advice Tom covered in his talk. In fact, I have done a similar talk last year when I attended Design for America’s annual Leadership Summit in Northwestern. Essentially, designers need to learn to better communicate with stakeholders, or else their work will never see the light of the day. Makes sense, right? But what steps can designers take to better communicate (i.e. tell a better story)? Here are three steps Tom covered in his talk:

1. Articulate — A great designer is someone who can clearly express his/her ideas as simple as possible. The more vocabularies you know, the easier it is for you to describe your design decisions. You can improve your vocabulary by reading more, joining improv/toast master clubs, or simply writing more. You can also think about your story by asking yourself these questions: 1) what would you say about this? 2) what was the challenge? and 3) what problem does this solve?

2. Process — It is our human nature to be biased. We’re all biased in some ways because of our upbringing, our educations, and essentially just our overall life experiences. What you can do is to listen, connect, and repeat, to make sure you understand what your stakeholder’s needs are. Most people just wanna be heard. You have your story, so do they.

3. Align — Last but not least, design is a collaborative effort, not a one-man’s job. By making sure you include this piece of element at the end of your story, you make things clear for yourself, your stakeholders, and your end-users. As designers, we know the importance of empathizing with our users but let’s not forget…it is just as important to empathize with our stakeholders.

To truly differentiate your work from your fellow designer, you’ll need to have the skill to communicate your design. At the end of the day, your stakeholders are the ones that decide whether to implement the projects, not you. How can you articulate your design decisions that move your stakeholders is essential to a project’s success for sure!

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