Designers, presenting is a core skill


Presenting = life (source: AV Club)

In this edition of MIND, we are going to talk about one of the hardest skills in design, and that is presenting work in a good way. One of my all-time favorite gurus in the field Mike Monterio wrote a very funny but true blog about this topic. The part that actually stuck with me was the following quote:

“I’d rather have a good designer who can present well than a great designer who can’t”

As a passionate Visual Designer I was so mad about this, I spend years learning and trying to master Design (and I still do). I’ve read books, followed courses, went to master classes about color theory, composition, gestalt psychology, grids, typography, UX research and what not. Finally, I master these topics and tried to break them and create my own take on it. Which in the end makes me a great designer, right?

And now you are telling me you rather have a lesser designer instead of a great designer. Who’s designs are not pixel perfect, user tested and of course based on either a very complex grid or the golden ratio. Just because he can do a good presentation?

Fast forward to 2019. Ever since I’m in the position of hiring designers this quote keeps coming back to me and it made me think about it from another perspective. The perspective from a business and team lead that needs to make money in order to stay financially vital, pay salaries and do awesome team events to invest in great work culture.

Great design + Shit story = This reaction (source: Digital Synopsis)

Sell your work!

We need designers that can sell their work and wind clients around their finger. They should be able to tell why their design relates to the business and why certain design decisions are made to achieve the project goals. But that’s not enough, they need to apply storytelling in order to sell the benefits of the hard work that has been done and why you are the expert.

Recently we had a job opening for Digital Designer (and we still do!) and I saw a common trend. We’ve had talented and way better designers than me apply, the culture fit was there, they said the right things and stood for something, but completely lost it during the final step in the recruitment process where they had to present a case.

Sometimes we had to let these people go while they could have been a valuable addition to the team. That’s shit for us. But what’s really makes me sad is that these talented people are holding themselves back and might end up doing a job they are overqualified for. They might never get the chance to grow to their full potential and make a real impact for and with clients.

Be the expert or you end up looking like this. (source: Digital Synopsis)

Cool story bro, but…
You might think, why on earth are you writing a blog about this? By giving this topic more exposure I hope this will reach (starting) designers and show them they should invest in storytelling, learning how to present their work in order to be successful in their profession. Designers and/or coaches write a lot about the technical skills you need to be a great designer but seem to forget that we, designers, can’t hide behind our desk, fancy colors, complex grids and golden ratio’s.

In a time where customers have become better in giving feedback on the project and design work. They have become more critical, concrete and verbally stronger. This development calls for more focus on selling your work as a designer. Selling your story to ensure that you can ‘persuade’ the client into the ‘right’ direction. You as a designer should be the authority, that’s what the client expects! You need to make them feel they did a good job hiring you. By inspiring confidence you will show them why you are the expert and guide them towards a big pile of money ;-)

Looking to improve your presenting skills? There are multiple training courses you can follow here are a few I recommend:

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