This Old In-house: The Skinny On Skinning Cats

Any in-house designer or design manager who’s arrogant enough to think that they always have the best solution to any particular design project shouldn’t be practicing in an in-house department. There is no best solution to a design problem, and any attempt to assert this flawed assumption will at best earn said designers a bad rep and at worst sully clients’, co-workers’ and managers’ perception of the design profession as a whole.

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Constantly getting pushback and misdirection from clients can make it easy to justify this defensive stance, but discipline and self-control will bring a much more successful outcome for all involved. As satisfying as it might be to push back hard on overly assertive stakeholders, acknowledging that there is more than one way to skin a design feline opens the door to collaboration and often disarms offending clients.

This tact is, of course, easier said than done. The balancing act of soliciting or honoring input while avoiding being steamrollered by dogmatic, close-minded co-workers is a difficult talent that can take years to perfect. Below are a few suggestions to help master this skill.

  • Listen like you don’t know, talk like you do
  • Discuss areas of agreement before moving onto differing opinions
  • Thank others for voicing their opinions
  • Establish and refer to agreed upon project goals and expectations
  • Determine final decision makers and work with them to arbitrate differences
  • Articulate the problem before looking for solutions

One thought on “This Old In-house: The Skinny On Skinning Cats

  1. zh

    Right on the mark as usual, particularly with :

    * Listen like you don’t know, talk like you do
    * Establish and refer to agreed upon project goals and expectations

    The latter in particular requires some legwork and effort beyond the creative process that many designers are surprisingly reluctant to take responsibility for.

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