The One Skill Designers Need to Develop Most in 2020

Legendary designer Don Norman takes designers to task for elevating craft above all else, when what matters most is the willingness to collaborate

Designers often lack the skills of teamwork, or mutual discussion, and of compromise. Oh sure, designers work in teams and often compromise, but only when the team is made up of designers. But designers need to learn to compromise with programmers, engineers, sales, marketing, service, manufacturing, and of course, management. Many do not wish to do this. In this sense, they are similar to the other disciplines, but worse.

What is wrong with designers? Much of this disinclination to collaborate is rooted in their education—especially if they were trained in schools of art and design. Design is not art. The value systems are different. The skills required are different. A designer needs to understand the world, business models (margins, basic finance, and accounting), marketing, sales, manufacturing, and service. And of course, designing technology that people can use, understand, and take delight in. If the designer is developing a service or a business model, then the designer must consider all the myriad kinds of people, organizations, and frameworks that need to come together to produce smooth, cohesive, delightful results. No discipline, not design nor any of the ones that are “X,” can do this alone: They must form collaborative teams with the other disciplines.

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