Okay, perhaps “superpower” is a bit of an exaggeration. But, it’s definitely underrated. For many years, I’ve read numerous articles on the importance of specialization when it comes to design. Focus on a particular industry or skillset and this will give you an advantage over your competition. And the logic is there for it. Clients feel more comfortable hiring someone who has specific experience in a certain industry or skillset.
But, here are what I consider are downsides to this:
- Specialists can be myopic. They will see things based on their limited amount of knowledge. A UX designer, for example, will not see the underlying problems with a brand’s print materials, its overall brand visualization guidelines, or other main components that are part of how the company is viewed by the public.
- Specialists can be lazy in their analysis. When they are constantly requested to perform the same basic tasks day-in and day-out, they can immediately repeat the same problem-solving skill they’ve become so adept at doing. It’s built into their muscle memory. And their solution might not be the best fit for your particular problem.
- Specialists can be not as collaborative. When they’re so focused on a certain task, and they’re so sure of the answers, they may not see the need to reach out and solicit more ideas from diverse viewpoints early and often.
- I’m deeply strategic. I’m focused on finding a solution to a specific problem or range of problems. So, if you come to me requesting a brochure, for example, I may suggest an alternative solution like a landing page on your website, if I think it would better meet your needs. Having a broader skillset, I know the benefits and drawbacks of different messaging tools. Or, I may suggest a broader scope so that your message reaches a wider market. Since I’m highly skilled in utilizing so many messaging tools, I can easily adapt the message to meet the needs of a broader audience. Ultimately, we’d work together to come up with the most effective solution for your project.
- My solutions will be evidence-driven. Being in the industry for so long and with a broad range of experiences with all types of messaging tools, I can give you solutions that come from experience, rather than from a particular field of design or industry.
So, let’s say you’re a bank and you want to redesign your website. You do a search that looks for web designers that have experience with bank websites. And chances are, you’ll end up with a website design that looks very much like other bank websites. But, this may not be the best solution. Normally, you want to stand out from your competition — blending in is rarely a good thing.
I have a recent example that I think can help illustrate how my strengths help my clients. I had an organization reach out to me for a print/pdf document that will help explain a very complex and detailed framework that needed to be communicated to a very broad audience. It was quite extensive and challenging to make it engaging and easily understood. Their proposed solution was a pdf document. And their reasoning was solid. It’s how other organizations across the country handled this similar communications challenge.
After reviewing the content, I realized that we could create a much more engaging presentation utilizing a website. This would allow us to animate the content, add video files, and include interactive charts and graphs. And we could make it mobile-friendly, which is not really possible with a pdf. I also designed the site using print design tools to establish the overall design and finalize the content. This allowed the client to also offer this in a pdf format for a segment of the target audience that would prefer this.
This solution really solved the communications challenges the organization had and they were thrilled with the result. And this is why I love my job. I’m constantly challenging myself and my clients to view things in a new way.
Update: I just read an article on Medium that highlights some of the points that I made here and took it even further. It’s really worth the read » The world needs you to be the generalist designer of your own mix