●HOW TO HIRE A DESIGNER
BY YVES BEHAR The founder of product and brand design firm Fuseproject on creative partnerships
In the office,, what we start withh is relatively simple.e. You have a desk, k, chairs, and lighting. g. In an apartment, of course, you need a living room, a kitchen, a sleeping area, a bathroom. We had to figure out a way to create those spaces in our 200 units and give them enough character that they feel nice and comfortable and warm and inviting. But we didn’t want to go too far with the design that they felt particular. We didn’t want someone to go in and say, “Oh, I hate that color. I don’t want to be in that unit.” So that was the nuance to the Welive design.
We had arguments about whether people would do their laundry in the building, because there are all these new services where you can have your laundry picked up. That was one where it was back and forth. Like, what’s going to happen? Is it going to be an empty room, and no one is ever going to be in there, and it’s going to become a total failure? So far, it’s been great. We have a cool laundry room that also has a pool table and a pingpong table. It’s become one of the beating hearts of the building. ① Hire a partner, not a vendor Most clients understand this, but for a collaboration to be successful, the design team they work with shouldn’t be selected only for their portfolio, but also for the potential for a true partnership. Any design process is a close collaboration, with a significant amount of
communication necessary to get the best results. If the partnership isn’t there, the results will disappoint. If the partnership is there, a designer will grow with you and continuously optimize your business. Mitch Pergola, our chief operating officer at Fuseproject, says, “The key to effectively working with an external design firm is not only picking the right skills and experience, but collaborating with them like a partner. Neither of these points are optional.”
② Share dreams—and nightmares The design process is never the same for any two projects, so it’s important to be as clear as possible upfront. Not only does this mean timelines, finances, etc., but also what you expect from the process and, crucially, context. If the client can focus on defining the needs of the business (which they should be best positioned for), the designer can focus on defining the solution (and, where needed, challenge the brief ). The more a client can communicate their context— company culture, past successes and failures, the passions and aversions of their audience and shareholders—the better able the design team will be to solve from this foundation. I often say, “The more context the better.” I personally benefit from all the data, the good stuff and the ugly stuff, the realities as well as the dreams.
③ Adopt a healthy sense of abandon Here’s an interesting paradox: Clients come to designers to push them out of their box and yet struggle when the design feels beyond their current reality. The most successful projects I’ve worked on have come from relationships in which my client trusts me, trusts our design strategy, and empowers us to guide them into the future. And this sense of risk and innovation should exist with every step of the process—from conception through hitting the market. “Trust that we have your best interests in mind, because our partners’ success is also ours,” says Kristine Arth, our director of brand. Herman Miller, with whom it’s been a privilege to work for the last 14 years, previously established long- term partnerships with Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson by, in the words of Herman Miller founder D. J. Depree, “abandoning ourselves to our designers.” Don Goeman, the vice president for R&D at Herman Miller, demonstrated this deep trust when we designed the Sayl chair and the Public Office Landscape system.
④ Go long It’s hard to know when the job is done. But the truth is that design is never done: The value of design grows over time. Companies that succeed are ones that constantly refine their products, experiences, and offerings. We currently experience a circular feedback loop with evolving customer needs: Improving technology, growing brands, and experience touch points are taken into account regularly. The best thing a client can do is find a partner who understands their essence—why they exist—and invest in a future together. One amazing product is great, but having a brand that’s cohesive, and sustainably and organically growing, is what we all need to build. Long-lasting relationships—that’s an investment that pays off handsomely for both outsider and insider. In this current era of disruption, if a company isn’t actively creating its future, you can be sure of one thing: Someone else will. <BW>