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Recently, I was asked, “What do you do for a living?”  You’d think the answer would be simple.  So did I.  I said that I’m a Concept Designer at Root, and I take my clients’ objectives and design them into visual learning tools to help create learning, alignment, and engagement.  Simple as that.  Although I have been asked this question hundreds of times in my career, this time the question stuck with me.  I wasn’t satisfied with my answer.  And I asked myself, “What exactly is it that Root designers really do?”

Let me begin with “What is design?”  The most straightforward definition I could find reads like thisDesign is essentially a rational, logical, sequential process intended to solve problems or initiate change in man-made things.  Design is in everything.  Your shirt, the logo on your shirt, the TV shows you watch, your TV, the chairs you sit in, your computer, your job, and how you do your job are all designed.  Simply put, design is in and all around us all the time.

Now, let’s explore what makes great design as it pertains to my work at Root.

First and foremost, I design for my client – their objectives and how we can make them clear, focused, and actionable.

Second, I design for me – what I’m passionate about and how to infuse that signature into the work I do.  You can’t do your best work if you don’t feel connected to it.

Third, I design for the end-user.  This may be the trickiest but most important group.  Ultimately, all the work I do will one day be used by somebody.  What do they care about?  No matter who they are, people don’t want to be lectured to.  It’s ineffective.  People don’t want to be taught – they want to be engaged.  In my experience, the only sure-fire way to engage an audience is to be sure that whatever you are designing for them has some sort of experience of themselves in it.  Think about it!  I guarantee the last movie or book that you enjoyed had a character that you related to on a personal level.

And finally, great design simplifies.  I love my iPhone.  Why?  It takes a whole bunch of tasks I once did separately and puts them all into one place – phone calls, email, TV, music, etc.  Oh, and it also fits into my pocket.  How’s that for simplification?

So what is great design?

For me, great design aligns and layers client, end-user, and designer sensibilities into a simplified and consistent experience, but ultimately delivers the objectives and results set by the client in a way that drives change.  And without solid design, I feel strongly that companies couldn’t do that as quickly or effectively in a way that resonates with their people.

February 22, 2012


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