Article by Martin Gibson – @embody3d @martingibson – 30.10.2010
Managing the Design Process – Implementing Design is another educational book in a series we’ve had the opportunity to review by Terry Lee Stone and published by Rockport. Although I was quite critical of its predecessor ‘Concept Development’ I firmly believe ‘Implementing Design’ is far more valuable to the working designer or theologian. The book outlines more feasible, practical and easier to implement strategies than ‘Concept Development’. Likewise the strategies tackle significant problems faced by designers in daily operations that designers generally aren’t equipped to manage or control.
For many the management strategies and processes outlined throughout will be tacit knowledge, but will serve as a timely reminder as to how things should be done. Processes like setting up a project by having a designer/client agreement, scoping the work parameters and tools for organising the design process are just invaluable advice for both a seasoned professional or a student stepping into the workforce. A lot of the chapters are heavily geared towards design/project/business managers like managing and assembling a work team, controlling the time and budget of a project and managing client expectations. These are the skills that are so often poorly understood or poorly executed by designers who tend to have more creative minds rather than very structural and mathematical thought systems. Therefore this book is equally if not more beneficial to the working designer than a design manager, although I must acknowledge that these paths cross over all too often.
Like ‘Concept Development’ the simple memory lists that Stone has developed for each chapter are the greatest asset of the book, they could be easily erected on any business dashboard. The memory lists provide an excellent summary of the core learnings to take away from each chapter. Another common characteristic of a Terry Lee Stone title are the beautifully large tables and diagrams which seem to breathe life into the content and make it comprehensible to understand. However some of the diagrams despite being purposely simple are sometimes too simple that they lose their practical value. For example Stone details some traditional project management constraints which is the cohesion and friction of time, cost, quality and scope. But often these constraints take on a new dimension in real projects in that some of the constraints are either fixed or variable.
Another common trait of the series are the case studies that aim to give some authenticity to the theoretical concepts. The case studies feature some very successful businesses like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Dell and it explores how they have overcome certain issues or implemented different ideas to improve their business. Sometimes these case studies can just drag on the real educational ‘meat’ the book delivers. I think the case studies are a great idea and worth having, but they need to be differentiated from one another more, and perhaps only used when trying to convey more of the obscure concepts. Sometimes it seems like the case studies are more of an excuse to have some really sexy graphic design projects showcased. But I could never complain about sexy pictures; all-in-all the case studies give you some well-earned breathing space!
The goal of this book is to equip graphic designers (however the lessons can apply to all design disciplines) with business and project management skills that are a lot of the time non-existent in design and art education. Does this book achieve this goal? Yes. It does this with great clarity and composure, and connects with designers specifically in ways traditional ‘all text no pictures and diagrams’ books can’t achieve. If you have been considering taking on design management or maybe you even recently got promoted this is the book for you. If you are a design contractor or run a small design consultancy this book will be a great checklist to ensure you have a solid foundation in place for your business.