Thursday, July 7, 2011

“…in English, please…”

This phrase hammered the point home that I’m a Professional who sinks back into bad habits of Design-speak.  Design Professionals are often labeled as “incomprehensible,” “snobs,” or “elitist.”  These labels have been slapped on us by competing interests or individuals who have had bad, past professional experiences, but every now and then, I get carried away with verbiage when explaining Project issues.  Check the first label again - and you’ve got it…this label is typically the result of our use of “Design-speak.” This design lingo is taught in school, when Professors begin classes with words such as “Design Context,” “Site Analysis,” and “Design Solution.”  In Professional practice, we struggle to correlate with Street lingo, giving way to “Existing Surroundings,” “Project evaluation,” and “Final Design.”  So what's a Designer to do?

The dichotomy of “feeling someone out” vs. “communicating the process to them” is a virtue of our Profession, by identifying a Client’s project’s needs, their design verse, and understanding of “what you do.”  Subsequently, this is balanced through good listening skills (to check for comprehension without being pretentious) and better explanatory follow, which is what I did, after the title phrase above, was uttered....Consider a trip to the Doctor, for a moment.  If you’re diagnosed with a “meniscus tear,” the follow-up “you will need surgery to repair your knee” offers the explanation and what the doctor will do.

A Designer’s mode of communication (in essence, terminology) is critical and key to productive, initial discussions. Only upfront, does the need for services, scope/amount of services, and a “worth factor” come to light…indeed, first impressions mean everything!  Listening is crucial.  Owners and/or Clients have different goals – for example, a Developer may not care about an exact material, simply an overall construction budget, or an Owner may want a truly “green” project, but a “traditional” product/method may be the perfect solution…both require communication with that, particular Client to address their exact needs in a clear, concise, and comprehensible manner.
Bullet points "force you" to be concise and focus your thoughts

Design-speak tends to be less pragmatic than “normal,” “street” lingo – terms such as “spatial,” “sustainable,” and “schematic” are heard in conversations, not with much frequency, and even worse, each term has a subjective meaning...I firmly believe, though, a certain level of design-speak is required, not to “lose a Client” in the discussion or “obscure the true meaning” but to better-inform an Owner and respect their time.  It’s efficient…in other words, “getting your site layout, orientation to the sun/exposure/frontages, considering neighboring properties/spaces/context, and subsequent impacts to your use and/or operating costs” is more efficiently-expressed as “Site Analysis.”  The phone allows for a quick conversation, typically a follow-up explanation “briefing” or “overview.”  We’ve become “so electronic” that written prose must be page-upon-page to accurately define terms or summarize events during construction.  I opt for bulleted items, offering short “descriptors,” including street lingo to further explain crucial points.  Bullets necessitate more concise sentence fragments, to consolidate verbiage…and I always, follow up with a phone call…
So the purpose of design-speak is not lose people in “information overload.”  It’s about efficiency!

No comments: