Managing Designers Like Students…
Edit: This does not apply to ALL designers, but it does apply to some that I have met and spoke too, I have also fixed some typos and cleared up some statements.
Managing designers is not easy, some are quiet, some rant and rave, and some are actually pretty good. It can be a fickle thing designer management as personalities are varied. Recently I have had the opportunity to catch up and chat with a few designers that I have worked 2-3 years ago with during their final year at university. Now its seems many designers including myself seem to go through a phase that we loose the energy we had at school and become a little tired, disillusioned, and slightly psychotic even!
What came to my mind’s eye is this quote by Allan Chochinov, I think it struck a chord:
Treat the undergrads like they’re grown-ups (which they are); show them crazy respect, and ask their opinions all the time. Tell your graduate students to stop talking and start building; tell them not to come to class next week if they don’t bring in 12 sketches. And then thank your lucky stars when they arrive with 3.
Interestingly enough I find this comment on “graduate students” can apply neatly to professional designers as well. Having the opportunity to be both a design educator and a professional design manager I like to expand on this quote a little.
Design students are young full of energy, opinionated and often argumentative. Often many lack confidence and are struggling to understand the complex topic that is design. So treat them like professional designers. Talk to them like they know what they are doing, be hard on them and act as it their career depends on their performance (it does actually). Be firm but fair when looking at their design work. Be straight with them and don’t beat around the bush. Finally never treat them like students or kids, and never ever spoon feed them. They need to find their own way, and you must be their guide.
Professional designers on the other hand, occasionally need to be treated like students! Expanding from the quote which I think implies that they are too scared to actually pick up a pen to start their design work for fear of making a mistake, I find many are close to being burnt out, disillusioned with the hard realities of real world design constraints, and occasionally lost in their plans. They need direction, nurturing, and occasional molly coddling as a form of chicken soup for the soul. Help them think of their future, work and career as a mentor or advisor. Occasional nagging for mistakes, verbal knocking around (no swearing now!) all has its place at the right place and time (be diplomatic at all times). The reason is, especially with the fresh grads, they are often overwhelmed with so much stimuli, that they can be befuddled with all that mental information, and will need to be guided to what to do. The good news is that a slight nudge in the right direction is all it takes, before the flood gates are open and the work takes off like a rocket!