The designer should use design as a tool, not be a tool.

It’s not the first time I heard this, “Well, we wanted to keep everything on PlatformX because of (insert reason – cost, immovability,logistics), but these other designers want us to move to PlatformJ. We would love too, but its just not feasible for us. The designers will not just let up”*

* Conversation has been dramatized and largely fictionalized, but you get the point.

I don’t understand the designer’s reasoning sometimes. I should point out that not all designer’s do this – arguing for the client to only use a specific set of tools over their current set. There are times when it would more advantageous for the client to move their existing system to a new platform, but this is not always possible and should not stop the project. If anything, the designer should attack this situation like any other problem and figure out a way to provide the client the best possible scenario that will fit the client’s needs.

Whether the platform of choice is Drupal, Joomla, PHP, ASP, Blogger, WordPress, or something completely custom, the designer should be forthright and say that either he/she can perform the appropriate task, he/she does not work in that specific platform but can pick it up very quick, or he/she wants to be honest and suggest somebody else who may be able to get the job done.

When I was working in theater, the best way to get a job was to say “Yes, I can do task x” and then immediately get yourself to the library and study that topic backwards and forwards. Now in our industry, we have to be a little more honest. We need to be able to say when we can or cannot do a specific task. However, we also should not be afraid to take on new platforms simply because there is a learning curve attached. Don’t charge for the learning curve, and forge into unchartered waters. Approach each platform as what they are – tools.

You didn’t know how to pound a nail until you swung a hammer for the first time. Most platforms have the same concept behind them. HTML and CSS are easy, the 2nd or 3rd time you built a web page. PhP is a snap after you have built your own CMS a couple of times. Each time you use a platform, something new clicks that didn’t before. Add to that the fact that each platform is evolving, so there is always a new technique to learn, or some way of using the code you may not have thought of. Don’t let the concept of learning something new stop you from creating a great client/designer relationship.

2 responses to “The designer should use design as a tool, not be a tool.

  1. Aric,
    Great post. I’ve seen a few designers fight to use what they know because they are afraid to have to learn something new. I’ve also seen many designers shoehorn in a platform just because they feel they spent time learning it and have to use it now. Not all sites need to be CMS or have Flash, but they are great to know for the when the time is right. Keep the great reading coming.

  2. Aric,
    Great post. I’ve seen a few designers fight to use what they know because they are afraid to have to learn something new. I’ve also seen many designers shoehorn in a platform just because they feel they spent time learning it and have to use it now. Not all sites need to be CMS or have Flash, but they are great to know for the when the time is right. Keep the great reading coming.

    Thanks, Jim.

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