What does it mean to be a “responsible’ designer?

Published: 5 August, 2014

Categories: General

What does it mean to be a “responsible’ designer?

By Kalika Painter

I recently had the privilege to present a retail design concept to a client of mine I’ve been working with for the last 7 years. Is there anything like the high of a successful presentation? That moment the clients face lights up and everyone is nodding in agreement to what you are saying around the table. It’s difficult to beat!

I believe this feeling is part of the reason we become designers in the first place. We want to make people happy with the experiences we provide for them. The term responsible design is not something I consciously ponder as I put pen to paper whilst designing, mostly it is something that happens in the relationship that forms with my client. It is impossible to tap into what makes people tick without building a relationship with your client, and if you don’t know what makes them tick….well lets just say you are not going to be as successful as you might have hoped to be!

As a designer it is our responsibility to always have our clients’ best interest at heart, I know of a lot of design companies that do not play by these rules. True, they still make money in the short term, but to have sustainable business consisting of a returning client base, I believe you have to really keep this truth at the core of your practice.

I attended a trend talk recently where it was mentioned that one of the leading trends that are happening within our society today is a “Trust no one” mentality. This presents quite a challenge to us as designers trying to sell our solutions (and motivate why it’s the ONLY solution!) to individuals that have access to the same knowledge as us at the click of a button.  The answer to this is, its relational. Get into the people business!

This is why each and every project you undertake is supposed to be different and exciting, because the people you are designing for are individuals.

Another truth that I have once again realised through this encounter is that a responsible designer is honest. The good the bad and the ugly! Your client will appreciate this more than you will ever know and this took me a while to sink in unfortunately. It’s not about how perfect you are, more about that you are true to yourself as a creative and are open to the fact that there will always be someone who knows more than you do!

There are so many facets to what makes a responsible designer such as using sustainable products etc, but for me now, I’m focused on taking my 7 year relationship to the next level!