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News|Academy|11 Oct 2018|Freek Wallaard

10 tips for your Design Value

All designers believe in the value of design. But many of their peers do not – yet. Therefore: our 10 tips and a handy tool to change this around…

Working for PARK Academy (formerly known as ‘Grow’), I’m in the wonderful situation that I get to talk with ambitious designers from all over the world. While their work situations differ greatly – ranging from working for enormous global corporates to small local agencies – they all believe in one thing: the value that design can bring to the world. And most of them feel like others don’t necessarily see this value. They feel under-rewarded and limited in their growth.

When talking about solutions, I often hear terms like entrepreneurship, business, data, and …difficult. A word that isn’t often used by the world’s creative problem solvers. Maybe it’s because numbers were never a designer’s hobby. This makes communication hard to those non-designers that want to cooperate: Googling “How to talk with a designer” brings up over 18 million hits. “Designers should stop coding and start studying business”, as this Medium article provokingly states.

We agree. Kind of. So to empower designers in understanding and evangelising the value of their work, just like marketeers, business developers and many others do, we have created the Design Value Canvas. A (deceptively) simple canvas that helps designers to predict the value of their design project, and justify their budget requests.

As this canvas is part of most of our education programs, we see how it works for designers. And how it could work even better. Therefore: this is the top 10 tips we give to PARK Academy participants to Canvas their Design Value.

1. Be fearless.

Designers are used to gathering a good bit of information before they start their project. And yet, educated guessing and working on gut feel is big part of the process. Design Value Canvassing is no different in that sense. Dare to make educated guesses, make your assumptions retraceable, and eventually you can validate your idea with confidence!

2. Don’t mix design qualities with design value.

The functionalities and aesthetics of your design are a little less important at this point. We are looking for the business effect they can create!

3. Try out something small first.

Try to push over a mouse before you start trying to move an elephant. What would it take you to recreate your own logo? What ROI would you get from putting a “Client Corner” in your office or throwing a sketching course for a small group of people? From there you get practice, allowing you to think bigger, and more strategical, each next canvas you fill in.

4. Use the canvas as a sketchpad.

You don’t need to know everything when you start, actually you don’t even need to know all your questions yet before you start. The questions will come while you sketch. And so will the answers. Also: if it works better for you to draw little bits instead of writing, that’s totally fine.

5. Don’t Canvas new ideas only.

Try first to fill in the canvas for something you’re currently already doing.

6. Don’t do it alone.

Get somebody in, maybe a super strong business man or woman, or your accountant, and go on a little Canvas Adventure together.

7. Prioritise and practice.

Prioritise the opportunities you see in the world. Start with what you feel is your weakest idea, and use it to practice. By the time you get to canvassing your best idea, you have a bit of routine, allowing you to do a great, thorough job in thinking it through well.

8. Use the canvas as a work-surplus-killer.

Too many projects, too many things to do, and no focus? Why not canvas a few of your ideas to find if they’re good or not? Put the less-good ones in the fridge and don’t let these ideas take away focus from your better projects.

9. Iterate.

Your canvas is probably not at its best after one attempt. Testing things, collecting feedback and sleeping on it will help you bring it to a next level. So keep your canvases accessible, and keep iterating on them.

10. Use it as a story-telling tool.

Pitching becomes a lot easier when you have a solid structure with you, taking stakeholders through the context, costs, benefits, kinds of value and eventually handing you over the pot of gold, happily. Kaching! If it is a big project that you are trying to get budget for, go the whole 9 yards and use your visualisation skills!

Design leaders are more sought-after than ever, and business-savviness is part of what a design leader needs to have in store. As Klaus Kaasgaard, VP User Experience Design at Intuit, puts it in FastCoDesign“It’s the greatest time to be a designer. Learn to talk the language of business and the language of technology, but let’s not forget where we come from.”

On behalf of PARK Academy I wish you a tonne of fun Design Value Canvassing your way towards growth and success. Ready, set, go!

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