How do you rate in the workplace? What are best practices?
What skills do designers need in order to excel at and accelerate
in their careers? AIGA and Roz Goldfarb Associates surveyed a
small, but geographically diverse group of hiring managers to learn
about the skills they seek in creative talent beyond visual
communication abilities.This is the first in a series of
articles sharing theirinsights and constructive comments
for designers, to offer a window onto the hopes (and frustrations)
of your potential employers. We hope this information will be
useful, so please share your thoughts and questions, too.
Elevator 5 (photo by Flickr
user Andrew Callaci)
Fifty-three (53) percent said the designers they work
with lack professionalism in their writing, especially when it
comes to e-mail. Employers not only consistently stressed the
importance of written communication as a skill, but also pointed
out the qualities that are required to deliver the desired tone of
expression. They noted the importance of having a “knowledgeable
and objective voice” in written communication. A “professional
tone” is one of the many ways in which a company communicates its
brand to its customers as well as its employees. Some found that
their designers responded well to such constructive criticism, but
do not expect to always get feedback from your employers—sometimes
you simply won't be asked back for another job. Always keep in mind
that your correspondence is a reflection on the firm you are
working for, which is linked to the quality of the final product,
the firm's efficiency, the quality of its creative output and
ultimately the company's reputation.
Eighty (80) percent of the managers said there was a
general lack of clarity in written communications. The ability to
clearly express ideas, instructions and feedback in writing is very
important—this should be a logical assumption of designers, who are
trained to seek clarity as a creative necessity. For just as design
thinking requires analysis and the distillation of ideas for
problem solving, designers should be able to apply those skills to
written and verbal communication, developing the ability to
communicate in a focused manner. The quest for clarity of
expression is of course a common problem in all areas of
communication, and designers are not alone. However, the success
and profitability of your projects rest on the quality of
communication—whether you are communicating with clients or vendors
or within your own creative team. It is a business requirement, not
just an option.
Seventy–four (74) percent complained about poor grammar.
Ask someone you trust to read your work first, to see if it makes
sense. Or take advantage of free resources online (podcasts, blogs,
tweets) that can advise you on correct usage. Don't risk making
common mistakes that could undermine your achievements.
Twenty–seven (27) percent said that you should improve
your vocabulary. Grammar and vocabulary are linked. This survey
points out that designers have a much better grasp of vocabulary
than grammar. But the best way to improve on both is to read more,
or take a half hour each day to listen to a good podcast. At the
very least this should serve as a reminder to consider your spoken
and written communication abilities. While in many instances it is
acceptable to use professional lingo in speech—in fact it may show
that you are aware of trends and demonstrate that you're well
informed—you would be wise to use more proper language in formal
business communications. Jargon might not be tolerated or even
understood by corporations, your clients. Particularly if you are
involved in global projects, you should take precautions to ensure
that nothing is lost in translation.
And… surprise… 33 percent complained about spelling. We
all have spell check, be sure to use it. Not only in formal
documents but in your e-mails too!
One principal of a brand consultancy commented, “Designers need
to be able to tell a story.” How wonderful and succinct. The artist
Robert Motherwell once said, “Painting is a metaphor.” So is
design. Designing a visual story is what designers do
best—communication is at the heart of design. Just as communication
with others through verbal expression is essential, design and the
written word are part and parcel of the creative process. In the
end, your ability to communicate effectively and compellingly will
allow the final creative solution to flourish.
Quick and Dirty Tips
Andrea Marks, Writing for Visual
Thinkers (e-book / download
“How (Not) to Write Like a Designer” (via Core77)
Learn Your Damn
Homophones (if you can look past the crass tone, this website
tells it like it is!)
As the largest professional association
of designers in the world, AIGA is committed to advancing the value and
impact of design, both locally and globally, and working together to
inspire, support and learn from each other, at every stage of our
careers. Whether you're an established designer looking to give back or a
student just starting out, there's a membership level for you.
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In-house, agency, or freelance? Why AIGA’s resident career expert thinks agency, followed by in-house, then freelance is the best path for students and emerging designers.
Section: Inspiration -
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