In keeping with the feedback and insights I’ve gleaned from my almost daily conversations with designers and design professionals over the past 6 years, Elaine Wherry noted recently on her blog that “UX professionals are some of the most professionally unhappy folks I’ve ever encountered.” She goes on to make a distinction between emotionally unhappy and professionally unhappy, but in practice no such distinction exists. If a designer is unhappy, the work suffers; as does the agency and its clients.
Angela and I started our agency in direct response to the various incarnations of idiocy that cause designers professional dissatisfaction and unhappiness and, as a result, agency and client dissatisfaction and unhappiness. In our previous agency experience we long observed the sorts of poor planning, bad decisions, mechanical disconnects, and perceptional voids that eventuated in corrupted and inferior project processes and results. Therefore, we work to preempt and obviate these things in our own agency so that our team doesn’t have to deal with them in internal and client projects. The result, we’ve maintained, is that we and our team members are far happier and more satisfied than our brethren in other agencies.
I say, “we’ve maintained,” because I wondered today if our folks still feel the professional and personal happiness and satisfaction that we’ve worked hard to facilitate. So I conducted a private poll among our team members. The results: strong as ever. Seems that we’ve still got it.
To be clear, our folks seldom if ever have to deal with idiocy like invisible stakeholders, feet-dragging clients, and approval mazes…and NEVER have to deal with committees, abusive clients, the clients’ processes. In every case it is Angela and I who pick the clients we’ll work with and we who define the project processes. In other words, it is we who maintain our own professionalism and work to maintain that of our staff. As owners, it’s our job.
Equally important to client-centric issues are internal issues. Our designers never have to deal with the confusion and idiocy of shared responsibility. Our internal processes ensure that it is the assigned designer who defines the design process and each knows that it is s/he that has ultimate responsibility for project success. While some or all of our team regularly collaborate on projects, the assigned designer has full responsibility for how to involve his/her peers and for making the final decisions. This, along with investments of trust from both the client and the agency owners, ensures that our folks get to bring their best, uncorrupted ideas, execution, and results to every project.
I make a point of saying so today because, as I observed at the start of this post, so many of our peers do not get to experience this sort of institutionally-maintained professional satisfaction and happiness. I see this as a consequential failing of too many of my agency owner/principal peers. It is a simple fact: if your people are not satisfied and happy, you have failed your mandate and your clients are sharing in the consequences.
Oh snap. Yes, I’m throwing it down. Okay, Angela and I passed this exam this time, but we don’t want to become complacent. It takes work and I just wanted to make sure that we were still successful in that work. Professionalism means doing what is necessary to work happily and uncompromisingly. And uncompromising means uncompromising. You are or you’re not.