Design Defense or Defensive Designer

There is an important skill in a good designer that I call Design Defense. In any design, there are choices that one must work through.  There are always alternative designs, but the one you choose should have skilled and comprehensive thinking behind it.  Design Defense is about explaining those choices quickly to other stakeholders.  It is critical that they understand the rationale and assumptions used in the decision making process.

Design Axiom: A designer must never, ever, neverneverever fall in love with his/her own work.  A designer must be the harshest critic of their own designs.

During Design Defense, it is critical to be open to change.  Just because you are explaining the rationale for the decisions and defending the design presented, doesn’t mean that you can’t absorb new assumptions and bend the design to accommodate other people’s points of view.  If you cross the line, you are being defensive.  A defensive designer is usually a road to ruin for any organization.  It creates a negative spiral dynamic that is difficult to recover from.  Usually the designer quits or is fired before healing can begin.

It is true that most designers are not given enough trust in their insights and training in the first place.  Most executives consider themselves “designers” and their opinion is just as good as the designers “opinion”.  This is the reason most products and services suck.  I also find that many designers just aren’t that good at their jobs.  Wait, I am off-track.  This was about Design Defense.

Design Defense takes practice.  I find it critical to be able to remember how the decisions got made.  It is incredibly frustrating (for all parties) when you can’t remember why you made something a certain way.  It has happened to me many times.  These days, I commit those early discussions to memory so I can recall them later.  If it’s too complicated, we write down the key elements.

Being good at design defense and not becoming a defensive designer is one of the keys to a healthy UX team.  Work on it and you will find that your designs are changed less often.



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