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The Business of Design

Have you been told that if you wanted to be successful as a designer you had to learn how to code? Throughout my career, I've heard that from several people managers and co-workers alike. My gut reaction was was to ask why.

Will they use my code? The answer was inevitably "No". So that begged the question, why, if my code was not going to be used, should I learn to code. To this question I was given several answers:

  • "So you can understand what can and can't be done"

  • "So you can show the engineers rather than telling them"

  • "So you deliver a final vision thats as close to what you're thinking as possible"

All of these things are indeed true. And I'm not saying you shouldn't learn to code. But when I thought about these answers the one commonality (to me) was they were all about communication. They were all about improving communication between designers and engineers.

OK, now for my next question. Have you been told you should take business classes? No? I hadn't either...

So why is it that designers traditionally haven't been encouraged to learn business fundamentals for the very same reasons they have been told to learn to better communicate?

Will you be putting together a business plan? Not likely...Will you be analyzing someones books? Not a chance...but will you gain a better understanding of these things along with the ability to better communicate with your business partner. Of course, and it is for this reason alone that designers should learn more about business.

By gaining a better understanding of the language and principles of business you gain the ability to truly understand the goals and constraints from a company perspective... Marry that with your existing skills doing this for the customers needs and you'll become even more effective.

It's by truly understanding our constraints that we as designers do our best work.


The above was an excerpt from a recent talk I gave at the Autodesk first annual Experience Summit.

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