Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Hands" No Discount

Last night, at a uPenn event, a tech or business (?) graduate from the class of 2009 did two very smart things: 1. Noticing that both of us were orbiting outside of various tight conversation pods, he introduced himself. 2. Learning that I'm a designer, he asked, "What is the one thing people don't know about what you do?" What a clever question. I plan to steal it for future events.

Over the din,* I shouted that designers assess, plan, and communicate beyond making something look pretty. I shrieked that people don't know that it's best to collaborate with designers instead of use them as a pair of hands.

My answer needs polishing. It's a good reminder to always have an "elevator speech," especially in gatherings with elevated noise level—and a reminder to learn to project the voice.

What is one thing that people don't know about what you do?


Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

I'm still wondering how to answer "what do you do?"! This will require some thought.

A similar question was raised in Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, and I was just thinking how clever it was. As an young organizer, Obama met with the principal of a school in a poor district in Chicago. She told a story of a struggling student and said, "So tell me—what can your organization do for someone like her?"
And Obama's answer (very savvy, very political!) was "I was hoping you'd have some suggestions."

Beth Tondreau said...

So, following your great anecdote, one way of continuing a conversation with someone just met could be to respond,"Before I give my answer, what's one thing you think a designer does?" That may start, well, communication.

Along a similar line, at an AIGA event last week, a savvy designer/thought leader/interviewer/provocateuse/chanteuse asked me, "How's business." I yada-yada'd a bit. A better answer would have been one word: "Evolving."