Kedron Rhodes Thoughts on Design, Innovation & Leadership

Frustrated with design then, and now

I've been a full-time, professional designer going on 15 years. I've been blogging for almost 10 of those 15. I trolled through a slew of old posts recently and thought I'd follow up with one, 9 years later.

A bit of context: this was written in 2004, while I living in Florida, working at The University of Tampa, and running a small design consultancy on the side (onPO!NT Media Group).

Adding value; More than just design

The design industry can be frustrating sometimes. Anyone with a computer and a pirated version of Photoshop calls themselves a designer these days. The industry has been flooded with mediocre work at rock bottom prices. As a result, many clients don't want to pay for design (good or bad).

That's why I don't consider myself a designer. That's also why I went back to school and finished a business degree.

Yeah, you heard me; I have a business degree. Yes, I know, creatives generally stay far away from the business end of things (that's one of the reasons I went for it).

Here's the point

I believe that if OPMG is to stay competitive we have to partner with our clients to deliver a comprehensive experience. That means more than a brochure or Web site. That means understanding their business from the ground up and helping them communicate their value from every angle. Good marketing penetrates the entire business process.

Designers don't cut the mustard.

Apart from being a cocky 20 something, I can still relate to that frustration. I've since embraced the title "designer", even though I know FULL well that the title is overlooked by those looking for "UX Designer" and other such nonsense titles. (rant: Design implies a solution for the user. So if you're not designing for the user "experience" you're not really designing. Adding UX in front of design generally tells me you don't understand design.)

9 years later, I'm less frustrated with hacks providing crummy design on the cheep. A savvy business person knows the difference between someone who is a hack and someone with talent, and is willing to pay the difference.

I'm still frustrated, however, with the gap between design and business. The conversation around design and business has been flourishing for years, and I feel like we should all be on the same page by now! Unfortunately, in my personal circles, my "business" friends get design better than many of my "design" friends.

I'm not sure what resources for understanding the relationship between business and design I would have pointed designers towards 9 years ago. Since then, however, there are a slew of them. Here are a few of my favorites:


Change by Design – Tim Brown

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage – Roger Martin

Design – Tom Peters

If you're a designer (or business person), and you haven't read any or all of these books, please don't use the term "Design Thinking". Pretty please. Thank you.

If you're new to the Design conversation and how it relates to innovation, let me suggest starting here and here.

FTR: Designers DO cut the mustard, and I'm still a bit cocky.
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