Monday, May 01, 2006

Designer + Manager - an endangered species

Well, more of a rare species than endangered :) Ever wondered by its so difficult to get a designer who’s comfortable with typography, contemporary design and reads and does research about design and also manages his or her work and clients?

In the course of my working life, I’ve come across a fair amount of designers – from my first job to my current one I’ve worked with web designers, print designers, interactive designers, people who do all of the above and even architects/programmers/civil engineers who’ve turned into art designers, and very few of them were good designers AND good managers.

It’s always a tradeoff – you either get a brilliant designer who’s on the bleeding edge of design and typography but has to be managed by someone else 24/7, or you get designers who are good at managing work and clients but very average when it comes to design.

Why is this? Is this a problem only in India? Or is it happening all over the world? I came across an article that seems to suggest people all over the world are experiencing this.

As hard as it is for designers to learn management skills, it’s even harder for companies to find truly qualified design managers to hire. It’s just a rare quality, because for truly creative types, the act of managing can often be a daily struggle between satisfying the sensibilities of the artist’s id, and orchestrating all the business factors that intersect with a design team. It’s an unnatural and often uneasy internal alliance of opposing agendas.

Some people may want to blame the design schools - not enough training on negotiation and management or maybe even too much of a focus on the subtle and artisitic. In my opinion, though it doesn't have much to do with design schools or with designers not getting enough exposure to management principles. Rather, it has a lot to do with their work environment and how they start off.

The designers/visualizers who start their careers as entreprenuers seem to be the only people who "get" managing their time, their work and their clients AND executing breathtaking designs. Of course, there are also the few exceptions of MBA grads with a penchant for design, but they are few and far between.

So is entrepreneurship the only way for designers to become good managers too? Seems that way to me - let me know if you have an opinion that's contrary.