Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Professionalism.

Four Design Links:
July 8, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week. This week: the power of the pause, unhealthy 3D, stupid designers and their clients, and Dell's unethical behavior.

1. The Power of the Pause

One for the Less is Better file, Bobulate asks us to consider the effect of pauses within design:

Walter Benjamin reminds us “architecture is experienced habitually in the state of distraction.” So when a structure that’s always been present on your daily walk suddenly becomes an empty lot, your definition of space and flow changes — there is a pause. And the surrounding environment takes a new form.

Read More.

2. More Evidence that 3D May be Harmful

Revisiting an old story, Slashdot has a few links that suggest 3D television might have adverse affects on people, particularly children.

Sega uncovered serious health risks involved with children consuming 3D and quickly buried the reports, and the project. Unfortunately, the same dangers exist in today's 3D, and the electronics, movie, and gaming industries seem to be ignoring the issue.

Read more

3. Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Another client post, this time from Andy Rutledge. I tend to agree with his take; designers should own up to more responsibility for a good or bad client experience:

There’s an easy test for evaluating design professionalism. The quality of your client experiences is directly proportional to the quality of your professionalism. If you have “stupid clients” it’s because you’re behaving stupidly to begin with, for we attract what we project. If you’ll stop being stupid, your clients’ IQs will increase dramatically.

Read More.

4. Dude, You're Getting a (Broken) Dell

Some bad ethics-related press for Dell. It seems they tried to cover up a hardware problem with some shady behavior and got written up in the NYT:

Documents recently unsealed in a three-year-old lawsuit against Dell show that the company’s employees were actually aware that the computers were likely to break. Still, the employees tried to play down the problem to customers and allowed customers to rely on trouble-prone machines, putting their businesses at risk. Even the firm defending Dell in the lawsuit was affected when Dell balked at fixing 1,000 suspect computers, according to e-mail messages revealed in the dispute.

The broken components had an estimated 97% failure rate, and they're not even going to fix their own lawyers computers? I'll say this: they stayed committed to their own story. To fix the computers would be to admit there was something wrong with them.

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NickJul 8, 2010
 

Ranking the most ethical companies in the world

What are the ethics of advertising ethics?

As we currently wrestle with a definition of design ethics, I have been struck by another question: what does the endgame for this project look like?

Not to jump ahead too far, but assuming we come up with a model of "good" design, what next?

I think we ask: What can be done to educate designers and consumers on good ethical practices? Moreover, how can we hope to enforce those ethics?

This post was inspired by Ethisphere, a business ethics think-tank that also publishes a magazine on the topic. I learned about them last week during this piece on NPR.

Besides their mission, what interested me is how they create awareness about business ethics in accessible ways. Ideally, if corporations and the public are better informed about ethics, that may serve as a kind of enforcement. Therefore, as we enter into the next stage of DLB -- publication -- I am interested in metrics and visualizations people use to talk about ethics.

For instance, Ethisphere has an annual list of the most ethical companies in the world. I can't begin to imagine what a task it would be to compile a list of the most ethical designs, but it's an idea. People like lists. They're easy to digest and a good way to get people interested in complex topics.

Graphs are nice, too:

World's Most Ethical Companies versus S&P 500
According to Ethisphere, ethical leadership leads to greater profits. It's something we've been saying for a while, but now we have proof of it in handy chart form. Via Ethisphere.

I'm a bit skeptical about Ethisphere's methodology, however. Participation in the index seems to be voluntary, so it's not exactly comprehensive. It seems to be a more collegial affair; the magazine isn't out there doing investigative journalism. There is no "least ethical companies in the world" list each year. (Though, I'd like to see that, too.)

I wonder why this is the case? On one hand, as a company that needs to sell magazines and fill conferences, how objective can Ethisphere afford to be? Who is to say they aren't creating their own market by judging unfairly? Or being too generous to avoid stepping on toes? On the other hand, if they aren't ethical or objective themselves, then they can't claim any kind of authority. The more I think about it, the more complex the situation becomes.

I think DLB is in a similar pickle. How can one sell ethics in a trustworthy way?

I will try to figure that out on Thursday. See you then!

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NickFeb 24, 2009
 

More from Milton Glaser

Where the oblique strategies can provide a way out of a little jam, Milton Glaser offers up a few aphorisms about how to avoid a big one.

This is a kind of half of a post. It's really an invitation to read This is what I have learned (PDF) by Milton Glaser for the AIGA National Design Conference, "Voice" in 2002. Here, he condenses 50 years of practical design wisdom into ten succinct, often counter-intuitive points. I will merely list the points, but I promise, each one is worth a read.

  1. You can only work for people that you like.
  2. If you have a choice never have a job.
  3. Some people are toxic avoid them.
  4. Professionalism is not enough or the good is the enemy of the great.
  5. Less is not necessarily more.
  6. Style is not to be trusted.
  7. How you live changes your brain.
  8. Doubt is better than certainty.
  9. Solving the problem is more important than being right.
  10. Tell the truth.
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PaulJan 26, 2009
 

Good Business is the Best Art

Andy Warhol laying on a couch.
We take these things seriously.

"Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art."
-Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975)

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NickJul 29, 2008
 

Fail better, Part 2: Getting great, getting fired.

A lot of people will patiently try and explain to you that being a professional designer means having a certain detachment from your work. But that's a bunch of crap. It's okay to care, it's okay to fail, and it's okay to make some people think you're crazy along the way. That's how great work gets done.

Most people are other people.
Their thoughts are someone else's opinions,
Their lives a mimicry,
Their passions a quotation.
— Oscar Wilde

We all want our clients to be happy. The engagement I was talking about Monday sticks out in my mind because it's the only one in my life where the client wasn't happy.

I have reflected, and I know I had a few things to learn about professionalism (and salesmanship, obviously). But what I felt then, and I still feel now, is that what's going to make everyone really happy is great results.

Now, great isn't easy. It isn't guaranteed. And we all need to eat, so that means we've got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. But nobody ever got great by playing it safe. Trying to implement new ideas is risky business.

Every time we try to do something great, we gamble our reputations. Sometimes we get fired, and sometimes we have to resign. Maybe someday, somebody will shake their fist and yell, "You'll never work in this town again!" But listen: If we just wanted money, we'd have jobs writing code for Oracle or re-touching photos for Teen People, or as sub-bosses in a 1920s crime syndicate.

Jon Polito as Caspar in Miller's Crossing
"Money, okay, everybody likes money. But somehow it don't seem like him."
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PaulJun 4, 2008
 

Fail better, Part 1: It’s OK to be involved.

A lot of people will patiently try and explain to you that being a professional designer means having a certain detachment from your work. But that's a bunch of crap. It's okay to care, it's okay to fail, and it's okay to make some people think you're crazy along the way. That's how great work gets done.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
— "Slammin'" Sam Beckett

The key to success is finding the balance between caring and not caring.
This sounds all Zen and profound, but it really depends on how you define success.

Here is an actual situation that happend to us:

Some time back, we were designing some things for a client in a design area that was pretty much totally virgin territory for everyone involved. It was exciting for this reason.

The client and ourselves had a handful of meetings, after which we came up with some proposals, pitched them, and they were accepted. A plan of action was outlined and agreed upon. Talk around the table indicated that since we were in new territory, the best course was to just start pushing through the first couple of passes, and then re-evaluate.

About halfway through the project, Nick and I were up very late drinking bourbon, (attentive readers will notice this is somewhat of a motif) and we had the vaunted "Eureka!" moment. All of a sudden, the project made sense, and we had an actual, real solution right there in our hands.

First, the good news: It was still a real solution the next morning. We spent that day creating a presentation detailing the ways that our new proposal addressed all the concerns that the client had voiced, and flat-out solved the problem from a conceptual standpoint. We pitched it that same afternoon.

Now the bad news: The client felt it was best to continue building the original idea.

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PaulJun 2, 2008
 

You Don’t Design Other People’s Culture, Sonny.

If your client doesn't want the best thing, make the best version of the thing they want.

Adaptive Path wrote a nice post a while ago answering a question they had been asked by a client. The client, showing uncommon wisdom, asked them "how they might make the most of [their - the client and AP's] design engagement."

This is a sort narcotic story for designers (or at least myself), who, qua Shirky's arrogant designer, fantasize about a world where clients ask us how they could make the most of our time. Unfortunately, it's a rare occasion when a client is going to ask you a question like that, much less be capable of hearing and internalizing the answer.

In the remainder of situations, unfortunately, our interactions with clients are going to be influenced by, if not symptomatic of, internal disorganization, a lack of project clarity, monetary shenanigans, or any combination of the three. This means more often than not, being a design professional means putting our ability to be humble to the test.

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PaulApr 30, 2008