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Have you ever been questioned about your design decisions while presenting your design to your team, a client, or other stakeholders? Answering with "I don’t know" or "It just looks good that way” won’t make you look professional.
It's actually quite common for young designers who are just starting out to still feel nervous when they are asked to show or explain the reasoning behind their design decisions. However, this unconfidence habit should be changed as it will bring more loss.
Communicating your design means you explain and discuss it with others. Design is no longer just about aesthetics and output. Technological advancement allows everyone, and even AI, to generate designs easily.
But the thinking, reasoning, and story behind each design is something that can’t just be replaceable by technology, and it's what makes an outstanding designer differ from ordinary designers.
The ideal designs are those that are intentional and have a solid justification to address users’ problems. That’s why, while presenting your design, it’s always advisable not to just present the output but also communicate why you made it that way in the context of the problem.
It could be as simple as explaining the placement of a button. In your design process, you must have considered many aspects, such as:
Who is clicking the button?
What is the intended function of the button?
Will users have no trouble finding this button?
Will the user be aware of this button's function?
In a meeting, you should explain your considerations too regarding that placement and tell your final decision and the valid reason behind it.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying: "Good design is good communication." It is indeed true that to be a good designer, you need to be a good communicator.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll only need to pour or convey all your thoughts through your design output. You’ll also need to speak up for your thoughts on many occasions, from pitching a new concept to a client to brainstorming your idea with your teammate. Nobody in this world is a mind reader; others won’t know what your vision and ideas are in your head except when you tell them.
Furthermore, in a project you have to deal with people from various roles that may have different levels of understanding of design. It's your responsibility to clearly explain your design choices so that non-designers can also understand them.
Even occasionally, how you communicate your design to clients, stakeholders, and other non-designers may be more important than the design itself because, like it or not, the individual who can communicate their ideas the best typically thrives.
If you’re afraid of the response others will give you when you explain your design decision, actually you shouldn’t. Remember that it’s not a courtroom where your design and decision will be judged.
Instead, the purpose of communicating design decisions is to allow stakeholders to understand the expertise and thought process of the designers so they can support you and provide feedback.
Your idea will go nowhere without the support of others, so getting their support is necessary. Also, even though everyone in the team may have a different point of view and role, the ultimate objective is to produce the best product.
Someone in a higher position or your client may sometimes request changes to a design that you feel will make it worse or ask you to design something in a way with which you disagree. When this happens, as a designer you have the chance to express your thoughts and convince them that your idea might be better.
At the beginning of the process, explain why you believe it is a bad idea from the designer's point of view. Then explain how your design decision can benefit the business.
Prior and during the time when you’re explaining your design decision, here are some things you should try to demonstrate:
Rather than basing your decision on irrational assumptions, you have done extensive research.
Be confident while you speak
Respects the feedback and opinions of others.
Before you begin explaining your design to others, make sure you know the purpose and context. To whom are you going to present your design? Is it for your team or your client?
Furthermore, what is the objective of the current discussion? It could be only to ask for feedback on whether your design is feasible to be implemented, or perhaps to make sure that your design has fulfilled the client’s business needs.
Once you know the purpose, don’t forget to state it at the beginning of your presentation. Tell the audience about what’s going to be discussed and what the goal of the current meeting is. It is necessary to define a clear scope in order to avoid pointless discussion.
When presenting your design, do not just go by showing the output. What others need to know is the process and thinking behind it, and most importantly, what the users’ problems do you aim to solve.
Problem A → The product engagement is low. Users face difficulties in exploring more products.
Solution A → Moving "Related Items" above the product description will boost product engagement because customers will have more chances to view other products easily.
Bring evidence and let others know how you have made a logical decision to arrive at the final design. The strongest argument for your design choices may come from statistics, user testing, and other relevant research.
In order to show how your chosen design is better than other options, you may also prepare alternative designs. This could demonstrate how thoroughly you went through your choices before settling on the final one.
Make a list of potential questions that people might ask you and prepare the answers in advance. Here, it's crucial to get to know the person you'll be discussing your design with.
Each stakeholder might have different perspectives and questions to focus on. A product manager, for instance, may want to ensure that the product you design can serve the users’ needs. On the other hand, if you present it to other designers, perhaps they will be more interested in the visual aspects.
Even though you won't be able to anticipate every question that might be asked, you will be more confident when answering the questions you did prepare for at the meeting.
Using a tool can help you articulate your design decisions more clearly and effectively. For example, you can make use of a flow diagram to explain the overall design flow, which shows the interaction between one page and another. A clear visualization can make your audience, including non-designers who might not really be familiar with design terms, understand your explanation better
Yes, it’s important to believe in your design decisions that you have made with careful process, but you will also need to not be defensive. Remember that a discussion with others is supposed to be about finding the best solution for a product, not proving that you are the best designer with the best solution.
So listen to other people’s opinions and feedback to maintain a healthy discussion, and don’t forget to write them down for your further consideration. Who knows that from the discussion you may get a fresh idea to be implemented?
For those of you who are often still nervous whenever you need to present your design to others, having good preparation by doing lots of practice will help you a lot. This may seem obvious, but sometimes this step is often skipped.
Last but not least, be confident! Always remember that the meeting is not a courtroom, but a place of discussion and a place for you to share your ideas and help others better understand your thoughts.