Design Beyond the Comps…

I recently attended a lecture by Daniel Mall, Founder/Design Director of SuperFriendly. He shared several great thoughts on creativity, leadership and teamwork to help design beyond the comps. Below are some noteworthy ideas that can benefit any creative team.


Clients are not an extension of your team. Clients are your team.

It is easy to get consumed by your big, brilliant creative idea. However, if your vision, creative as it may be, is off the client’s expectations, you are not successfully accomplishing your goal. Designers must remember to listen to clients and treat them as a part of the creative team, both entities working to successfully achieve a common goal.


Show passion. Feed into the company culture.

Did you put 100 percent into not only your design, but also into the entire design process? A major factor in a project’s success is how you communicate with your team and the client. If a web design concept isn’t making sense, try a different approach. Making short QuickTime movies to explain how you want animations or navigation interface to work is a great way to share your ideas. This type of extra effort may mean that you won’t be skipping out the door at 4:30 every day, but it does show dedication. As a leader, you want your team to know you put in your best effort to make a project successful.  Stepping up to the plate in these situations also demonstrates a hard-working company culture – without speaking a word – to which others will aspire.


Create empathy. Become a client.

Many designers spend their entire careers without ever being a client themselves. But if we do not experience the client’s side, how can we really relate to our own clients? To understand what it is like to be the client, hire someone to design a personal project for you. Going through the design process as a client will give you insight on how to better relate to your clients, this is the closest you can get to being in their head.


Big sites need smarter work. Not more work.

On big web projects, it is essential to analyze and organize all the information you are dealing with prior to starting the design process. If you are working on a complicated site with numerous pages, getting out from behind the computer and organizing the information in some type of physical form often helps. Try using sticky notes or paper cutouts with copy to arrange the page sequence and create paper prototypes. Make sure the site structure is carefully thought through and approved by the client before starting designs, or you will likely end up doing this work twice.


If you are not positive, then your whole team is negative. Positivity is contagious.

People fail to realize how easily they influence other people around them. If you think a client’s design idea is crazy, even if unspoken, your team members can easily pick up on your feelings toward a project. A negative outlook on an idea or concept can often carry over into your work, which will ultimately be seen by the client. If your client asks you to “explore the use of rainbows,” go for it. Believe in their vision and come up with a wildly creative way to meet it. Lead by example. Take a positive outlook, even if it is forced.

Designers give form to otherwise shapeless ideas. This ability to bring ideas to life extends beyond design programs and the printed page. It is really about the whole process – effective communication with the client and team and doing smarter, not more work. When starting your next project, remember to design beyond the comps.


By, Stephanie Silvera | @Steph_Silvera


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