Before good design comes first good mentality / by David Hu

You look around and "design" is everywhere. Everyone is designing. Some are doing OK, but most are failing at "design". You even have friends working at the competition who enlisted the help of an "international design agency" and the project is a disaster. So you ask yourself, "Isn't there a formula for successful design? If there isn't, how can I possibly convince upper management the value of design for our company?"

These are normal questions. GREAT, even. But they are also very difficult questions.

Before you even think about finding a creative agency, you need to first do some internal preparation of the mind. Figure out who will have a final say on the design, then get them together and discuss in detail your expectations for design.

Ask yourselves questions such as:

  • What is everyone's definition of "design"?
  • Are you equating design with "innovation" or with "beauty"?
  • Are you expecting design to turn around your financial situation? Or are you already financially stable and want design to further differentiate yourselves from the competition? Or do you just see design as something really cool that other companies are doing and you're looking "stale" in comparison?
  • Does everyone expect "certain success"? Are they at ease with "possible failure"?
  • Is everyone committed to being passionate about design throughout the process or will some be stubbornly skeptical? (it often only takes one person to derail the whole thing.)
  • Is everyone ready to be hands-on in the design process (i.e. commit regularly to design meetings)?

Start with these and you'll figure out, in your own way, more questions to answer. It's not enough to engage any  creative agency, world-class or not, and say, "Here, make my product great." You need to first figure out why design should be an integral part of this project. Soon you'll realize how much "mental" alignment you'll need before you even have "budget" alignment. This will make the process much easier down the road. From time to time, you'll also need to remind everyone of these questions and answers so they can have a mental "reset".

Design is a long journey. But as with any journey worth taking, a good mentality will ensure that it will be as satisfying and successful as it can be.