Opportunities for professional development have always been scarce for those in the design community wanting to hone their management, business and leadership skills. This critical gap was set into stark relief for me while attending a series of engaging and insightful seminars presented this week in Philadelphia by Cella Consulting.
While most design organizations do a wonderful job of inspiring designers by hosting thoughtful presentations on the design process by accomplished designers, few (with the exception of the HOW In-HOWse conference and the AIGA/Yale Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders), offer the kind of focused design business curriculum so desperately needed by in-house managers.
What Cella did so well, was to strip away any pretensions of being a design-centric event and stay focused on the left-brain strategies and tactics so necessary to any in-house team’s success. From SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to time tracking and metrics for measuring success, the trainers carefully laid out a plan for not only providing great deliverables but for becoming a valued corporate strategic partner worthy of a seat at the table.
The caliber of the attendees was also critical to the event’s success. As convenient and affordable as online training can be, I believe all of the attendees got a lot of value from the impromptu conversations about our individual challenges and successes.
It’s critical for in-house designers and managers to acquire the sort of left-brain skills and insights Cella provided that don’t come naturally to our tribe. I’d recommend seeking out these types of opportunities wherever you can find them. Without putting our creative efforts into a business context, the practice of design will never move into the realm of design thinking and its potential for impacting organizations and cultures beyond the artifacts designers are most recognized for.