5 reasons why designers don’t need to write

Perception is the communication problem.

5 reasons why designers don’t need to write

Last weekend, I reflected on my career and had an epiphany. Years ago, I was stuck and stagnant as an art director. I needed to gain skills to become a C-level executive. I had no idea how to break through the glass ceiling.

“… along this journey, I’ve lost my voice. I’m no longer confident in sharing thoughts because I don’t see the value in myself… What happened to me?” - Feb 2019 “Reflection on 4 Years”

I spent the next 50% (9 years) of my career searching for myself. The missing piece is communicating design value and impact. What’s the point of designs with no influence, adoption, and buy-in from team stakeholders?

The foundation of communication is rooted in words. Writing is designing words that generate the power of rationale, influence, and desired outcomes.

In the past, my co-workers encouraged me to write with the following:

  1. $50 bucks per article
  2. Cat could be a great speaker on stage one day
  3. Cat could be seen as the expert
  4. Cat can attract like-minded people to the agency
  5. Cat can learn a new skill

None of the above worked; they were materialistic reasons for money and fame. Sadly, I am a nerd who cares to seek knowledge. My imposter syndrome to produce quality writing prevented me from starting. Perfectionism is the enemy of good.

The fact is all designers need help communicating value and relevancy. Our impact is invisible when we don’t have a strategy or plan. We over-index and bias on aesthetic artifacts or go beyond our job scope, leading to burnout.

Five reasons why I didn't write

1. “Image is worth a thousand words.”

Designers believe aesthetic quality is an effective method to communicate the depth of meaning. We assume the audience understands and appreciates it because we weld the power to convey a thousand words into a single image. “An aesthetic design leads people to believe it has good function.” Law of Aesthetic Usability

This is not true.

How do you convey your worth as a designer without aesthetic images? Do you end up using a thousand words? Think about all communication channels ranging from audio to video. Do you say, “You’ll understand when I show you a mockup?”

Designers don’t want to be seen as service providers but keep discussing the impact with design mockups—a true irony at its core.

2. “Writing isn’t required to get the job done.”

Designers don’t understand why writing is essential to design work. Writing enhances and clarifies your articulation in design rationale. Designers describe their impact daily, but they don’t realize it. There are three critical points to every single conversation, document, or presentation.

  1. Why does my idea matter? Why should you care? State the most crucial idea first.
  2. How: What are the requirements? Explaining in most minimally as possible. Do not elaborate unless absolutely necessary, only to reach a decision. Every complex problem has a clear, simple, and wrong answer.
  3. What is your solution? You don’t need to explain all the options you’ve considered. What do you want from the receiver? Is it a solicitation for guidance or a decision?

3. “I have nothing important to say.”

This is a symptom of imposter syndrome. To overcome this, lower the bar. The first step of writing is writing for yourself, then asking for support from friends and family.

4. “I don’t see outcomes from writing.”

It’s a practice to reflect outcomes from every piece of touchpoint before the communication happens. Knowing what you want the audience to know and what you will get out of it, sets you up for success.

5. “AI can do it better. Why should I try?”

AI can help you improve word selection but cannot profoundly synthesize the learnings or values provided by design. A bot is only as good as what you train it with. It looks for your content and helps you reframe the words. While we are all scared of bots taking over our jobs, there's one thing a bot can't do. To logically communicate the best ideas and defend it's rationale using "gut" - emotional IQ.

“The world rewards the people who are best at communicating ideas, not the people with the best ideas.” — David Perell.