Dragan Babic enables design.

Design in a command-and-control environments

Every time I hear about people having issues with designers, and the creative part of design as a process, it comes from people who work within organizations which are run in a command-and-control fashion.

This means strict hierarchy, authority, processes, and basically the desire to keep the unknowns to a minimum. And it's true, creative services suffer within these organizations, because creative work is primarily exploratory, and is filled with unknowns. It's about learning as much as it is about solving.

All businesses want to deal with as few esoteric practices as possible, but in my opinion there's quite a lot of this going on in design. We call them style, taste, intuition, etc. I am convinced that these things are the designer's most valuable assets. They are what sets a creative effort apart from something which is simply executed and "does the job".

You can "design by numbers" to an extent, but I honestly believe that it's impossible to make something truly great this way, and by "great" I mean to create something which will inspire, and be remembered as an important event within our profession.

More often than not we do great things not because we're told to, or get paid to do them, but because we feel the urge for these things to exist in the world. We want to execute our work in a specific way because quality is a sign of respect for what we do. 

You can't optimize to greatness, and command-and-control is about optimization. If you are running an organization which is set up like this, try to be OK with a leap of faith in at least some part of the design process, and see what happens.

If you are a designer who aspires to create exceptional design work, don't work in an organization which is all about control because your work will get optimized to a derivative, just-barely-good-enough slop.


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Dragan Babic is a design consultant enabling creatively challenged organizations to nurture design, and work with design professionals in productive ways.

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