Why designers fail

1 minute read

Here’s is a survey done in 2008 by Scott Berkun, which I think after a few years still gives some good insights:

“Many top reasons for failure are not typically considered design issues, such as collaboration skills, persuasion skills, and receiving critical feedback.”
— Scott Berkun (2008) Why designers fail: the report

This is my experience as well. Once a certain level of design skill is reached, most of the issues are interpersonal issues — which means individuals, teams and organization issues.

The top 11 issues are:

  1. People in non-design roles making design decisions
  2. Managers making design decisions w/o design training
  3. Designers don’t seek enough data before designing
  4. No time is provided for long term thinking
  5. Not receptive to critical feedback
  6. Lack of awareness of the business fundamentals
  7. Only lip-service is paid to “User centered design”
  8. It’s never made safe to fail or experiment
  9. Designer’s power diluted by too many cooks
  10. Over-reliance on one kind of design style
  11. Poor collaboration skills

A couple of notes:

  • Issue 2 — note that “Managers without design training” is in my view misleading. It’s the usual Say/Do Gap. A manager with design training would be as bad (if not worse) received as a manager without. The issue is 90% of the time about how the suggestion is made and why, not the suggestion itself. Or in other words: this is a leadership and collaboration issue that has nothing to do with the actual level of skills. The same fallacy happens when developer say that designers should code “so they will get it”. False.
  • Note how many of these are directly or indirectly feedback issues: either inability to get feedback or no time for it. Feedback, and the iterative approach, is critical to get good design.

See all of them in his recap.