Design and Business: 3 traits of top designers

  • Irfan Qureshi

The one “trend” voiced from virtually all corners of the market is that designers of all skill-sets (Visual, UX, Graphic, Branding, etc….) should have a solid understanding of business, and designs place within that.

As recruiters, we’re fortunate to have a helicopter view of the markets we work in - it gives us insight into the many different trends in the many different areas of the market. However, the one “trend” voiced from virtually all corners of the market is that designers of all skill-sets (Visual, UX, Graphic, Branding, etc….) should have a solid understanding of business, and designs place within that. We hosted a round-table breakfast in July for Creative Directors to discuss this trend. We had Creative Directors for advertising agencies, product studios, start-ups, and design consultancies in the room - it was unanimous that they feel designers should understand business, and they explained the many different reasons as to why this is important for them. You can read about many of those reasons in Meera's 'Designers should understand business - Creative Directors tell us why' blog post, but here I want to explain why it’s so important from a recruiter’s perspective and it’s pretty simple…Our clients are looking to solve genuine business problems for their clients, and they need designers that can help them do that. As recruiters, we are guided by our clients’ requirements, and this influences what we’re looking for when we’re speaking with or talking to designers. Working in a visual discipline means that we’re always going to be looking for pixel-perfect visual design and beautifully crafted (from an aesthetic perspective) products, but we know that we’re working with a top designer when we see the following 3 things… 
1. You have questioned/helped shaped the brief
Many clients we work with are faced with increasingly challenging demands, and most of the time we seem to have moved away from “We need a new website” to hearing briefs more along the lines of “How do we achieve X”. However, for the clients who say “We need a new website”, it’s clear that this isn’t always the best solution for their business objectives… We are always encouraged by designers who have asked ‘why’ at the point of a briefing, and can articulate why the platform used was appropriate. This can be really simple, such as choosing Android over iOS because more of the clients demographic are on that platform, but the great thing is that it doesn’t have to be complicated and you have shown a real understanding and care for the choices that your client is making. 
2. You clearly thread the solution into the brief
Once we know that the brief is right for the challenge faced by the client, we love talking through the solution itself. As I mentioned above, we know that the solution looks great visually, but what we really also want to understand is why it looks that way in relation to the brief. I’ve always believed that a piece of design could either be the best or worst solution dependent on the aims of the project, and this is where I want to understand why it’s the best one. Always be mindful to include this type of information in your portfolio as you may not be talking to the recruiter or employer at the time, so it’s important that they can understand the rationale behind the solution straight off the bat. 
3. You want to talk about these things
This might sound like a simple point, but it’s a big one for me.We meet designers who want to solely talk about all of the beautifully crafted visual elements - don’t get me wrong, I love talking about this stuff but I also love talking about the things mentioned above but I don’t want to feel like I’m the only one in the room that does. If it feels like the Spanish inquisition is needed to get this information out of you, then it comes across like you aren’t interested in talking about this - that ultimately won’t be well received by a client who needs tough business problems solved. We are always interesting in talking to designers to help you in your career - whether it's the next step in your career or sharing insight into making yourself more marketable. Get in touch, let's get a brew. 
Originally published on Futureheads Recruitment website.