â€œWe donâ€™t work on assembly line anymore, we work on projects.â€ â€“ Seth Godin
And I cannot disagree more. I often catch myself telling my friends that I couldnâ€™t pick up their call because I was working on a project. But really, I was not. I was not being a white-collar innovative creative genius who was working on a project but a blue-collar worker who had to drag another design project thought an assembly line:
Get a Brief > Make a Mock > Make Changes > Repeat Previous Steps if Necessary > Start Developing > Test > Done (+ loads of name calling & hair-pulling in between)
Yuck! That looks like an assembly line. I wanted to innovate and create something new, something brilliant and not yet super brilliant but a soft innovation. And that is exactly what I am not doing. So whom do I blame? Let me thinkâ€¦
â€¦ The Evil Client sent from Hell! (official website)
When I started out as a designer, I wanted to use my abundance of wisdom in creating something innovative, doing new things and making things work for people. But I ended up with being treated like a Photoshop whoâ€™s being told by a non-designer about what to keep and what not.
How in the world I ended up there? Is there a way out? You bet!
It starts with thinking differently. I am going to show you how you can use the things youâ€™ve been using all along in a different way to rule worldâ€¦ err.. you know what I mean.
Prototypes aka Mock-Ups
Itâ€™s the most obvious tool and yet badly used. It becomes â€˜theâ€™ vision of what end product will look like and a well-meaning client ends up throwing ruthless and meaningless comments on it.
Letâ€™s revisit the idea of creating a prototype. Itâ€™s supposed to be communication between you and your client so you both know where you are going. Itâ€™s one of the ways you communicate your solution to a client in a way he can understand.
So if it was communication, tell me again why did they tell you to add half a pixel.
There is something that you know and I know but they donâ€™t know and you are afraid to tell them.
Tell them that it is a damn rough idea of what it will look like and itâ€™s a basic blue print, a general direction. And the vision will develop all along the way.
Use it to communicate security and progress not to judge the poor pixel.
From personal experience, the best of my designs were built evolved on the fly (over a period of time) with very rough idea in prototypes and later development of individual elements.
So much emphasize is put on making it easy and obvious for users. They even have a name for itâ€¦ something called User Experience. But what they fail to realize is that it is an evolving thing. Users evolve over time, and so does design trends but why not the basics?
Why do we still have menus on top or sidebars? Why a menu at all? Why do we confirm to these untold rules and stop the way for innovation? The web is not expensive at all for innovation and testing.
I will tell you what; you canâ€™t lead industry with your wow designs (even us high school kids can do that and way better than you). You will have to dare to innovate. And innovation doesnâ€™t need a huge change all it needs is a different way of looking at things.
Did you really think of creating navigation or you were wondering about how hover state of that horizontal menu will look like?
On a speaking event, I was talking about these ideas, the general response from audience was that they donâ€™t just get such clients.
You know what that means? You failed to project yourself. Does your portfolio speak of all the pretty sites you made? Damn! Thatâ€™s where your fault is. You are selling pretty sites and thatâ€™s what kind of buyers you are getting.
Sell the process instead. Show them how you work how your vision evolves over time. Thatâ€™s why blogs are way better than showcase. If they are happy with way you work and communicate â€“ they are going to be perfect clients.
Your portfolio isnâ€™t a bunch of business you have done. Itâ€™s a story of evolution of emotion to reality. Does it tell your story properly?
You know what Google does when people donâ€™t click your AdWords ads? They fire you! A company fires a client. I hear you say, â€œOf course they can do that. They are Google.â€ But they are Google because they set themselves aside as experts.
If you want that kind of authority over what you do with projects you touch, if you want your client to trust you with every bit of it then you have to be an expert.
But you canâ€™t be jack of all trades; you have to be a master to fire your client. You need to be very specific about what you sell.
There was a trend when portfolios said: Hi! I am a designer, Illustratorâ€¦
Then they learned this lesson and evolved to: Hi! I design user interface.
And then: Hi! I design user interface for web apps.
But before anyone grabs it be an expert and say: Hi! I design blogs for Thesis & WordPress (thatâ€™s what I do)
Or maybe: I design websites for creative people
Sure it limits the niche you get, but that is what an expert does. I am from India and know the mystics at work in here. Itâ€™s so damn easy to spot an Indian on freelancing sites:
- They use â€œSir / Madam.â€
- They try to hop in every project they can get their hands on.
Result? India becomes known for cheap labor, and experts? Rare!
So you have two choices: Be an expert or be a labor. In case you choose, I will be sad to see a scientific artist go (Thatâ€™s what a designer is).
PS: What happens when everyone catches up with your specifications of expertise? Psstâ€¦ you innovate.