Issue 34

Design is a lot like dating

Ștefan Bălan
Creative Director @ Lateral


As in dating, the designer with a positive attitude will get ahead more easily. Your boss will like you more, your developers won't run away from you, and your design peers won't be afraid to ask for your feedback. Be positive, communicative and open minded.

Be picky

Imagine you hit on all girls in the club. What you think your success rate is gonna be?

Just because you need work, doesn't mean you should take any client, any project, any idea. While being open to new ideas is necessary, it doesn't mean all ideas are good. Pick something you like, otherwise you'll regret it the morning after.

Don't seek perfection

Because you are not perfect. Even you could design the same screen in 10 different ways. Each detail 10 times that. Go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

You have to put yourself out there

Most designers feel under appreciated, think they deserve more and are hard to work with. In reality, the work they do is very poor. Not because they don't have talent or capacity, but because they hold back, design the "safe" mockup, that will get approved by the boss & client. They are afraid of rejection and prefer to be liked rather than do their job properly.

Stop designing your perfect portfolio, show your work even if it's unfinished, get feedback as soon as possible.

Know your level

Don't hit on a 10 if you're a 5. Seriously.

Having realistic expectations is good for your career and mental health. You need years of experience and practice to be able to hit the big clients with confidence.

It's a numbers game

Not all the users will understand you. Even if you designed a great product, chances are the right audience doesn't know about it yet, so you need more exposure. It's a numbers game, so unless you're a master pickup artist (Apple,Facebook), you need to be open for rejection.

Learn from rejection, don't become bitter

Just because the greatest idea you had in your life didn't impressed the client or your design manager, don't go back to your desk and cry. Find out if it was a presentation problem, or if your idea was indeed great.

Ask for feedback, maybe something you don't realize is affecting your work. Ask for feedback, but take responsibility. Most designers end up executing someone else's vision because they are unsure what to do, what to try and are afraid that yet another idea will be shut down.

It's your own fault if you're not happy with what you do. Stop blaming others, your attitude reflects on other designers as well.

It's about her, not you

Learn to listen. Ask questions, but don't assault your client from the first date/meeting. You need to create a conversation, not a q&a session. This applies to your boss or design manager. Ask questions, but make sure your customer is confident you know what you're talking about.

Fake it!

Just because you're not an expert in something, it doesn't mean she is. Don't know how to dance? Dance anyway, you'll get better.

Learn new things from your clients. Don't have a clue about a certain domain? Perfect. Your client will invest his time to teach you something new, that you'll be able to sell to the next customer.

Dealing with competition

You know that awkward time when you're talking to a girl and some other dude introduces himself into the conversation? Do you feel insecure? Threatened?

You shouldn't.

The same with other designers. Just because they have more experience, or their portfolio looks better, it doesn't mean the girl will go home with, or in this case that the client will trust more.

Don't start a fight. Don't run either. Stay there, don't let it get personal. Let them have their moment, and encourage their good ideas.

Steal back the show. You are a designer, you should know how to adapt. Make their good ideas better. Screw with their confidence by correcting small mistakes they made or details they missed. But don't keep score, be there for the long run. Make it all about the work.

Soon they will become your supporter, not your enemy. Otherwise both of you will go home alone.

Check for the ring

No ring is fair game. But unsolicited "redesigns", or judging designs without inside knowledge is easy. Be respectful of others and try to get their perspective before jumping to conclusions.

Don't be afraid to give unsolicited advice on great ideas with bad execution. Just make sure you have the facts first.

Check the mirror before you go out.

Even if we don't want to admit it, a lot of the design work is based on intuition and trying new things. This means you need to convince your client to take risks. Well, you'd better wear a tie soon!

You need to make your client comfortable, and gain trust even before you speak. Can you do that wearing a t-shirt and a beard? Great! Think a suit will do better? Suit up!

But don't over do it. Sooner or later you're gonna have to open your mouth, so if what you wear is feeling uncomfortable, you'll get distracted and screw up the presentation.

Be confident and comfortable in your own shoes.

Poke the bear

If you want to get some, you have to risk. Sooner or later, you need to test the water, get a sense of the girl are you speaking with. Is she interested in you, or does she just enjoys chatting?

Just because you have to be nice, doesn't mean you have to agree with everything. Don't be desperate. Both parties have a shared interest in it.

Don't be afraid to put the client on the spot, make him feel uncomfortable and insecure. Or he will do that to you!

Ask sensitive questions, and see how they react. You will find out if they are the kind of client you want to work with or not.

Close the deal

Getting approval is the key. Do you think a girl will go home with you on the first date if she needs to ask her friends or her mother? Why should design approval be different?

Most clients don't have your experience and capacity to see all the benefits of the solution you proposed, because they see the work from a very subjective point of view. Close the deal, and they'll be thankful later.

Don't be the nice guy!

If you ever hear your design is "nice", that's a bad sign. The nice guy rarely takes the hot girl home.

You want your designs to be the awesome, not pretty. Take charge of the conversation, make sure people understand what's under the pretty colors & fonts.


Yes, you heard me right. Cheating is healthy for your work relationship!

It's very easy to get comfortable inside a company, get a pay check each month and be happy with it. You put less and less effort into it, and neither party feels the need for change for a while.

But starting your own projects will help both you and your company. Getting exposed to different experiences will enlarge your horizons and make you a better designer.

Make sure she remembers you the next morning

Your work in the end decides if you are gonna get laid or hired again or not. The talk, the clothes, the attitude, all count, but if your work sucks, you're not getting a second date!

To be continued.

Next Chapter: Working in a company is a lot like being in a long-term relationship.




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