How many times have your
design projects led to this:

illustration of a designer

No one cares about design!

My designer is driving me crazy!

illustration of a non-designer
illustration of a designer cursing in frustration
illustration of a non-designer cursing in frustration

To designers, it can seem no one else sees the value in your work. You're an expert, but you aren't respected like one. Too often, your recommendations get ignored. Chances to do your best work feel rare.

To non-designers, design is mysterious and its value is uncertain. You aren't convinced that it can really do anything for your goals, especially considering the price tag or all the extra work.

It doesn't take long after a project starts for trust to break down. People start pointing fingers. No one is happy with the result. Sound familiar?

We don't understand how to work on design together, so butting heads is bound to happen. Designers and non-designers have the exact same goals: to do a good job and to use the design to accomplish something.

But, if you think about it, that's rarely what we talk about. Instead we negotiate the size of the logo or the font choice. We get lost in specifics and lose sight of what we set out to do.

Keep reading, because I'm going to teach you how to put an end to this once and for all.

But, first, you need to realize something:

Each of us has a tiny designer somewhere inside

We can all contribute to a design. You probably think that's ridiculous, but that's also the reason design projects can devolve so quickly: respect is lacking.

Read on for five ground rules that are required for designers and non-designers to work together successfully.

Oh, and the payoff is well worth it. When we can stop butting heads and work together, the designs we make can be pretty incredible.

Illustration of a non-designer's face

Rule 1: Everyone can contribute

Think you
Science says
you're wrong

The “creative type” is a myth. Everyone is creative, including you. Research indicates that creativity and having novel ideas relies upon practice and exposing yourself to new information. So to be creative, you simply need to try to be creative and put yourself in the right environment.

For non-designers, this means that you can actively participate in the design process. You have something valuable to add if you're willing to take the leap. (It's worth it, I promise.)

For designers, use this knowledge to act as a creative mentor to your non-designer counterparts. Encourage and guide them, and you'll find they respect and value you more than ever.

Illustration of rule 1

Rule 2: Design for measurable goals

can do

Great design can accomplish incredible gains for businesses. It's way more than aesthetics; design can help you to communicate your ideas more clearly and to reliably produce the results you want.

Once and for all, let's get clear about what design really is. When we make a design together, we have a purpose. We're not redecorating. Design is an exercise in emphasis, tone, and empathy. It's a way to explain an idea to a person so they can better understand.

Illustration of rule 2

Rule 3: Everyone needs to learn about design

To contribute,
you need to
know the basics

When designers and non-designers have some common ground and shared understanding, the conflicts dissolve. If you're taking part in a design—no matter your role—knowing the basics will get you better results.

For non-designers, knowing more about design will help you understand how it can help you to achieve your goals (and whether you're getting your money's worth).

For designers, teaching clients or coworkers about the basic nature of your work will build their appreciation for what you do. Plus, they'll be more likely to follow your advice.

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Rule 4: Collaborate without compromise

Compromise is a
four-letter word

Well, it's actually ten letters, but the point is that a successful design cannot compromise.

When designers and non-designers work together, the goal isn't to make everyone happy; it's to achieve something specific.

In fact, if the design project went well, someone will leave without getting everything they want. That's good, because if you are focusing on a goal instead of your own preferences, the design you make will be much more likely to succeed. (Nudge. Designers: this includes you.)

So instead of compromising, work together to create a design that meets goals in the best possible way. Even if it doesn't match your favorite team's colors.

Illustration of rule 4

Rule 5: Keep a neutral perspective

Design is
not unreliable

While design might seem subjective, there's a ton of psychological research about why and how design principles affect people. Design changes how we understand and remember ideas. It affects trust.

The stereotype of the unreliable, wishy-washy creative type is outright wrong—the work of design is backed by a century of scientific research.

Further, when we approach design like the scientific method, with a hypothesis, it becomes less about personal taste and more about outcomes, which is better for everyone.

Illustration of rule 5
illustration of a designer



illustration of a designer

A free 5-part email course. One for designers. One for non-designers.

The Tiny Designer is a course about the big (monumental, even) design that we can make together. Non-designers will learn the important parts of design, so that you can understand what designers do, achieve your goals, and better communicate your ideas. Designers: learn to teach and guide others through your design process so they'll better appreciate what you do.

Course Outline

  1. 1

    — Priceless: Creative work has no value. Or does it?

  2. 2

    — The Design Toll

  3. 3

    — The Creativity Gap

  4. 4

    — How Design Theories Relate to Business Goals, Part 1

  5. 5

    — How Design Theories Relate to Business Goals, Part 2

  6. 6

    — Surprise bonus email with free stuff! (Shhh!)

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