As designers, the visual sphere is where we’re often the most comfortable. That is the form of communication we gravitated to as children, pursued in college and are experts in as professionals. But the currency of most of the important communication transactions that take place in the corporate world – the coinage that sells ideas and buys respect and resources – is that of words; both spoken and written.
Without a modest, if not expert, facility with words, you will never fully realize your goals and potential as an in-house designer. Whether you’re writing an email pressing for needed departmental reforms, giving a PowerPoint presentation showcasing your team’s achievements to Finance or pitching a new ad layout to Marketing, if you can’t articulate your ideas clearly and powerfully, you unnecessarily risk failure.
Like currency, there are various denominations in the realm of communication, each with their own inherent value. Proper spelling, the simplest to acquire with the advent of spell check, would equate to pennies. You should be accumulating plenty of copper.
Proper grammar, which falls into the 10 to 25 cent range, is a bit more of a challenge, but Word now offers suggestions on poorly worded sentences and taking a refresher writing course or seminar will allow you to put more change into this particular piggy bank.
The area where the big bucks reside, though, is in the practice of clear and critical thinking and the organization of ideas, both of which are the essential foundation of any written or verbal communication. This also happens to be the discipline that requires the greatest expertise and rigor.
I’ve read enough emails, attempts at articles, PowerPoint copy and the like to know that designers have a lot of good ideas swirling around in their brains that they haven’t prioritized and organized in their heads before articulating them. Their ineffective attempts to speak and write those ideas down are akin to trying to lay out a piece while still in the research stage of the design process. Under those circumstances, the design would certainly be confusing, chaotic and poorly executed just as a written or verbal communication would be, if executed at too early a stage. If you’re not thinking straight, you’re not going to be able to write or speak very powerfully.
In addition to seeking training in this area, you can look for mentors within your company to support you. In the meantime, slow down and focus on how you use the left side of your brain. You’ll know instinctively when your ideas haven’t coalesced into a coherent train of thought in the same way you know when you’re not ready to put pencil to paper or commit pixels to a design.
One thing is certain. In order to succeed in the business world, you must acquire at least a modest level of proficiency at designing your verbal and written communications as powerfully as your visual designs.