I remember the first time I saw a timer pedestrian crossing signal. It was while I was on vacation with my family in Washington DC. We were getting ready to cross a particularly busy intersection where it was difficult to see oncoming traffic and I very much appreciated the specificity of how many seconds were available to make the trek across the highway with the my most precious cargo, my younger daughter, in tow.
While the stakes are considerably lower than my daughter’s well-being, that same specificity is critical to my success as an in-house designer and design team manager. Walk/Don’t Walk signals seemed to be good enough for intesection crossing safety until studies showcased the unacceptably high pedestrian accident rate requiring a more effective solution. Similarly, we may be patting ourselves on the back for getting a date for when a design project is due to our client, but with that general of a target, it’s still very likely we might get nailed by an oncoming Hummer.
It’s critical to not only get a day that a design is due, but a time of day, what the deliverable is and at what stage of development the deliverable needs to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a project due on, let’s say, a Tuesday and I planned my workload to allow me all day Tuesday to complete and deliver the project by end of day, only to have the client call me in a panic needing the design for a 10AM meeting. Another all to common scenario is one of my clients expecting the finished design to be handed off to them at a specified date when I assumed it was a comp that was required.
Getting a deadline that is more specific than ASAP may feel like a major coup but without more specificity than a date, there’s a very real chance that the signal will change to Don’t Walk while you’re smack dab in the middle of the highway.