Blueprint for a Perfect Designer

So you’re short of a designer for your R&D project? Luckily, there are plenty of designers out there. Just pick one and you’re good to go. Right?

Not quite. Many designers have solid skills on certain areas but may be lacking in others.

That you want an attractive and commercially viable design may be a starting point. But there’s plenty to consider beyond that: Do you expect the designer to understand your line of business and the reasoning your customers have for their purchase decisions? Or to provide you with insights on materials and manufacturing methods? Maybe you need help in innovating: finding out new business opportunities, optimizing customer experiences, creating new value. Design is about much more than just making things pretty.

Below you’ll find our ten-point blueprint for a perfect designer. We hope it will help you in finding your perfect match.

  1. THE EXPLORER. The designer should seek to acquire a holistic understanding of technological aspects and business logic related to the solution being designed, and most importantly, the people for whom the solution is made. This requires skillful application of user-centered methods which – properly applied – will enlighten the entire project team. Relying on assumptions and fragmented information will certainly lead one astray.
  1. THE INNOVATOR. Innovativeness is one part creativity, but it is equally the result of systematic mapping of the world of possibilities and constraints and the ability to zoom into issues where the users’ core needs are not met. A good designer possesses the skills and methods for finding out opportunities for success – and the creativity to develop novel solutions for those opportunities.
  1. THE HOLIST. Products embody services and services are made of products and digital interfaces. Crafted innovatively together, they create new business opportunities. A good designer can design solutions which encompass these all. Think of an electric vehicle charging system: The charging stations and their digital user interfaces need to be aesthetically pleasing and functional. The same applies to mobile applications and control room software which realize other aspects of the ecosystem. Every little thing needs to play its part in creating a great service experience – and in creating viable business.
  1. THE LEADER. Companies are experts in their own field of business – but are not always experts in utilizing design. A good designer adjusts to the customer’s R&D proficiency and provides a suitable amount of guidance to keep the project moving forward and staying on track. It may suffice to give the customer a gentle push when they are about to go in the wrong direction – or, it may require the designer to take a more major role in project leadership.
  1. THE TEAM PLAYER. The designer rarely works alone. Seamless co-operation with other R&D specialists contributing to the same project is essential. Equally important is the co-operation with management and marketing. Constant communication is crucial, and one of the most important tasks for a designer is to provide high-quality decision-making material for the project.
  1. THE EXPERT. A good designer not only delivers great designs, but also provides expert insights. The designer needs to be able to propose ingenious ways of doing things – whether it be production methods, materials, interaction methods, or ways to make the product easier to operate or assemble. The best designers do this proactively.
  1. THE GRASPER. Two very different products: a mug and an agricultural tractor. Both require skills and insight from the designer, but whereas the first consists of a single part, the other is a complex technological feat with an enormous assembly of thousands of interconnected parts. To able to work with latter requires the designer to be able to grasp technologies and complex wholes. A similar mindset is required when working on the software user interface of a complex system.
  1. THE CRAFTER. The designer needs to the skills to utilize suitable tools and methods to their full potential. In product design, expertise in 3D CAD design is essential. In UI/UX design, tools for virtual prototyping need to be mastered. A good designer is not afraid of getting one’s hands dirty making models and prototypes at the workshop.
  1. THE NETWORKER. A good designer knows a lot – and knows where to ask for more information. Good contacts to manufacturers and providers of special services are a great asset in a project. On the other hand, internal contacts are likewise important: A designer backed up by an experienced design office – with access to the cumulative experience and peer support of the office – can provide more value to a project than a solo designer ever could.
  1. THE ARTIST. Designers are often asked to bring their artistic vision to a project. While this view of the designer’s ability to contribute to a project is very limited – as illustrated by the points above – a dash of artistry is a beneficial trait in a designer. Properly applied, it can manifest in the creativity to craft unexpected yet useful solutions, and in the skills to make the result aesthetically pleasing.

Finding a designer who fulfills all of the above is very difficult. For a lighter approach, you may want to focus on aspects which are most important for your needs. Examples: If you’re not fluent in utilizing design in your R&D, you’ll probably want to pick Leader as one of your prime requirements. Or, if you think there’s some untapped business potential out there, you might want a designer with a fair dash of Explorer and Holist to complement your team.

The above list should turn out useful if you’re looking into employing an in-house designer for your company. On the other hand, if you need the best expert to take up design responsibilities for a single project or from time to time, you might want to consider looking at what professional design agencies have to offer.

As a design agency, we at ED Design are in the business of providing great design services to our clients. Naturally, we use the list above when recruiting new designers into our office.