Yesterday night I went to a diner with people I know and some I don't. As always in such circumstances, comes the standard question: What do you do for living?
When you are a plasterer, a doctor or a lawyer, you don't need to explain what you do and usually, the next question comes right after: Where do you practice your job? Who are you arguing for? or you end-up talking about your experience building a separation wall in your house and you are basically begging for some quick tip how to apply plaster properly. In a nutshell, as am sure you understand my point, a plasterer applies plaster, a lawyer argues, a doctor heals.
So Hervé, what do you do for living? "Am a designer". Usually a long silence follows…
Someone from the audience explains: Yes, I see, so you are an artist and you create furniture? No I don't, I could but that's not what I usually do.
OK, so you draw nice logos? Aren't you? No? So apart from having nice Hawaian shirts (I wish I have one) and drawing all day long what are you doing?
These are the typical conversation that the word "designer" provoques. So how do I handle the conversation at this point to kill such preconceived ideas?
Of course I have tried to explain what am doing, I use simple words to say I do Design Management consulting and that I help my clients to create new concepts to innovate, or that I also provide consultancy on brand strategy, and so on… At the end I loose those people who are waiting for a clear answer and at the end, they wonder what the hell the design has to do with what I explained and that I should probably go back to my drawing board… to draw!
Well, that's where my wife integrates this story and I would like here to celebrate her talent to synthesize and articulate concept clearly. She is also a great French teacher for those interested in.
While we drive back home, we usually debrief on the diner and the people we met. This time, my wife very nicely and carefuly mention my explaination and share that I probobaly confused more than I clarified what my business is about.
Of course, I think the same but this has always been the case for the past 20 years. I am getting used to it. How to explain an expertise, a job, a function which keeps looking for legitimacy, for a clear definition, and which has not yet demonstrated the potential of its field of application. Especially if you don't create logos all day long, or if you are not on the cover of the reknown design publication in your country, or even better, internationally.
My wife has summarized it extremely well this way: Hervé, it is quite simple, companies call you because they have a challenge, an opportunity, or sometime a problem. And what you offer is to solve their issue with the power of design. You are a problem-solver and you use design tools and methodologies. You provide businesses with consultancy. That's it!
Suddently the sky opens and gets clearer. I am not a designer! …and I feel good about it. However I know what design is about, I understand what it requires to deliver great design, and I know Good Design is Good Business. In the current economical situation, businesses are really in need for such strategic tool, otherwise, when the crisis is over, they might find themselves in a difficult position.
As a conclusion, from having the nose to the grindstone, it is sometimes important to ask those who have an outside view of your problems.
And by the way, isn't it what my business is about?