On the business of Design: Design is a job

“The biggest myth ever perpetuated in the design field is that good design sells itself.”

I wanted to learn about design so googled up “best books on design”.
Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro was consistently high on the lists. So I bought it.13574985
Design Is A Job is not about design. It’s about the business of design. About running a Design practice.
About getting work, selling proposals, agreeing contracts.
And the knowledge in the books can very well be applied to other (creative) businesses.
Mike Monteiro is the owner of Mule Design, a Design firm. He is also the author a books on Design practices. He is famous for being clear on getting paid: F*ck You. Pay Me speech. In the book is provides the same clarity.

Design is a business

Work for Money. You are in business.
Anything I have to tell you can be summed up thusly: charge as much as you can, deliver an honest value, and never work for free. Unfortunately, most designers feel such pangs of guilt about.
The secrets to getting the price you want for your work are having done the homework to know you’re asking for the right thing, the confidence to ask for it, and the willingness to walk away when you can’t get it.
 Monteiro breaks down the magical mystery of design and creative work.
All well, but it is a business.
The myth of the magical creative is alive and well, and it’s powerful.
A designer requires honest feedback and real criticism, and that’s not going to happen in a realm where colleagues or clients are worried about crushing the spirit of a magical being.
A designer is solving a problem. Design has no purpose in itself in itself.
… any design task you undertake must serve a goal. It’s your job to find out what those goals are.
To achieve these goals, the designer must gather17jdy1hi74q2sjpg information about her clients and their goals. What do they want to achieve, what is the context in which they are operating, what their financial constraints are.
She does not operate in a vacuum.
Figure out what the client really wants early Most clients will approach you with a wish list of desires. If they don’t you should actually work with them on coming up with one. Assign a cost and a benefit to each one.
 Finding a fit between client and designer is not just a concern that the client should be concerned about. You as the designer should also be critical to what customers you ‘hire’.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are evaluating the potential client as much as they are evaluating you. Prospective clients sometimes find this surprising.
I totally encourage you to go after clients you want to work for. Let’s just be realistic about the return on this type of business development. It is very, very low.
The clients you choose to take on define you. Your portfolio needs to tell a story and each client you add to it is another chapter in that story. Make sure you’re consciously building the story you want to be telling.
Monteiro recommends a free customer screener tool he provides on his web site:
If you’re here it’s probably because you bought my book and read all the way to page 18, where I promised you a screener for ferreting out whether you’re talking to the right clients or not. Well, here it is.
Interaction with the customer directly is extremely important. Under no circumstances should you just deliver the work and leave it with the client.
Selling your work directly to clients is extremely important. Not only should you be able to explain why you made the decisions you did, but you’ll get first-hand feedback on where the work needs to go next.
Look for clients who have clear goals, not detailed punch lists. This is especially true of RFPs that require you to reply directly to each line item at the risk of being disqualified from the process. You don’t want to sign up for a process that you know is broken from the start. Once you set sail on a boat you can’t convince a captain to take to the sky.
The job of a designer is not just doing the design work, it is doing the research, the selling, but also to assure having great interaction with the client. You will have to make an effort to help the client understand what you have created.
Not knowing the design language doesn’t make someone a bad client. I doubt very much that most of you could have a medical conversation with your doctor on par with a conversation your doctor could have with another doctor, and that doesn’t make you a bad patient.
It’s your job as a designer, and a communication professional, to find the right language to communicate with your client. When you say a client doesn’t “get it” you might as well be saying, “I couldn’t figure out how to get my point across. I am a lazy designer. Please take all my clients from me.”
The biggest myth ever perpetuated in the design field is that good design sells itself.
 Not only gives this the designer the ability to differentiate from the competition, it also helps build a good relationship with the client. Giving him the opportunity for feedback.
Being able to present your own work is a core design skill. It helps build rapport with the client. It puts the person directly responsible for the work in front of them. It shows them that you’re presenting that work with confidence. And it gives them an opportunity to ask questions directly of the person who did the work.
With this feedback, discuss improvements with your client. But don not let them change the core of the product your have designed for them. Negotiate.
Your first job is to separate the actionable feedback from the non-actionable feedback. Sometimes clients just like to document their thought process. Your job is to sift through and find the actionable from the non-actionable.
And smartly negotiate about the changes a customer wants.
“I once argued with a client for an hour over an issue I didn’t care about (eventually letting him win!), because I really cared about the next issue coming up. At that point, he was so tired out and savoring his victory
About the jobs you choose and the way you design, Monteiro is also idealistic. Your work should improve the world. Serve to create a better world. Leave something lasting behind. Ignite change. He refers to Victor Papanek’s seminal work.
Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World, which I will bluntly summarize like so: you are responsible for the work you put into the world.
I urge each and every one of you to seek out projects that leave the world a better place than you found it. We used to design ways to get to the moon; now we design ways to never have to get out of bed. You have the power to change that.
Then about organizing the work. Making sure things get done, coordinated, all the people are working together.
Working with the project manger.
Just as you’re responsible for the quality of a project, your project manager is responsible for getting it done on time. And with the maximum amount of profit. This doesn’t mean you’re not both thinking about those things. It means you each own your part of the project. This often leads to tension, as your ultimate goal is to do good work, and the project manager’s ultimate goal is to do the work on time. And that’s pretty much how it should work.
The book is packed with great business practice advice for creative businesses.
And it includes a extensive categorized book list for further reading. Because
Perpetual intellectual curiosity is the greatest resource a professional designer can have. Barring that, an island hideaway is nice.
What to read next.
Viktor Papanek’s Design for the real world.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell and others.

Copywriting crash course: Henneke Duistermaat in How to Write Seductive Web Copy


“Each page needs to have one main call-to-action. In a color that stands out. And that tells people exactly what to do.”

I took the advice at heart to dig into copywriting.

I didn’t know anything about copywriting. So this was going to be fun.51qxhfrfuel-_sx311_bo1204203200_

With other advisory voice in my head – learn something new every day, read broadly, have wide interests – I purchased Henneke Duistermaat’s How To Write Seductive Web Copy, after doing some research on the web looking for the best books on copywriting. (Why not some webinar or Youtube video? I feel so lazy when I do that. I don’t have that when I am reading. Video learning is difficult to me. Like exercising on a home trainer. Boring. Can’t concentrate.)
So I read the book.
This book is outstanding in conciseness.
Duistermaat gets to the point and is very practical.
Henneke Duistermaat is an internet marketing expert and founder of Enchanting Marketing and author of a number of very practical books on copywriting, blogging and marketing.
I learned a lot. Very simple messages.
Get a clear picture of who your audience is – write their biography.
Your value proposition is what you write on a billboard: a headline, a few bullet points, and an image.
What is important as well is to have a simple but clear view on the problem you are solving for your clients.
Let’s start with writing your headline. Four different options exist: You state simply what you offer.  You mention the key benefit of working with or buying from you.  You tell readers which problem or hassle you help avoid.  You ask a question to target customers who are right for you.
Your product page shouldn’t be descriptive; it needs to sell your products or services. This is how:  Write for your ideal reader. Focus on the benefits you offer and the problems you avoid.
The question your about page should answer is this: Which problems do you solve for your customers? Don’t talk all the time about your product, your service, or your business because nobody’s interested. Talk about your prospect’s problems. Explain how you solve these problems. Tell your readers how much happier they’ll be if they let you solve their problems.
Gain the trust of your customer. Show them you are not bullshitting or wasting their time. Get personal.
When you engage emotion and the senses, people get transported to a different world. Allow prospects to experience working with you, and their defenses against sales pitches are lowered.
You need to work hard to gain the trust of potential buyers. An easy way is to provide case studies and testimonials, or to include logos of business you’ve worked with, or publications you’ve been published in.
Often people want to get to know you more personally. Rather than focus on an immediate sale, get web visitors to sign up for your e-newsletter.
Also on your web site, Duistermaat provides very clear advice.
Each page needs to have one main call-to-action. In a color that stands out. And that tells people exactly what to do.
Remember that the way you design your web page has a big impact on your persuasiveness.  A few tips: De-clutter each web page and simplify your navigation. Have a lot of white space to create an inviting environment. Use color and font size to show what’s your most important information. Promote readability with large, easy-to-read fonts. Guide your visitors with clear, stand-out calls-to-action.
And links to cheat sheet and other useful materials. Worth every cent.
What to read next.

Inside the mind of an Asperger: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night

Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

I got The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time as a present for my birthday. My kids were polite and only later told me it was a children’s book. My son said he had read it for his English class. 51js6g5i9pl-_sy344_bo1204203200_
Mark Haddon has created an extraordinary story about a boy with Aspergers syndrome. I had read two books with a comparable first person perspective of a person with Asperger: The Rosie Project (Which I actually selected hurriedly in an airport kiosk for it’s interesting cover design) and the Dutch book Wat Is Er Toch Met Kobus (What’s wrong with Kobus). The first is written from the perspective of a full-grown scientist, with a light Asperger syndrome. Kobus is even more similar  to The Curious Incident: in it’s first person narrative form, and the young main character is a highschool boy.

Little Insight from Insight Selling

I will (and believe can) summarise Insight Selling by Mike Schulz and John Doerr with a few quotes.51fhppsuv2l-_sx333_bo1204203200_

I managed to get halfway through the book. Concurring with Naval Ravikant who does not read business books as ‘they are very simple ideas wrapped up in a lot of pages’. I also agree to not read books that are not keeping your attention.

As in Tas Universum

Jelle Brandt Corstius fietst naar de Middellandse Zee met een koffiekopje van de as van zijn vader in zijn fietstas.


Onderweg kijkt hij terug op het Opperlands universum van zijn vader, Hugo. Hij leert fietsen. Hellingen beklimmen. Leest ondertussen de gedetailleerde wereld van Knausgård. (Wiens vader ook van alles blijkt te verzinnen.) Maakt zich steeds zorgen over de gevoelloze lul die hij na elke dag fietsen in zijn broek vind. Geeft een lesje klimmen voor beginners.

“Het klimmen kun je beter in een rustig verzet beginnen, om daarna de berg te ‘voelen’. Op een gegeven moment heb je een een ritme waarvan je weet dat je dat een half uur kunt volhouden – langer is zelden nodig. Over het algemeen hebben bergen een redelijk constante hellingsgraad, behalve helemaal aan het eind: daar komen de haarspeldbochten. Daar moet je je laatste energie voor bewaren.”

Jelle vertelt over de continue pesterijen van zijn vader. Dat dit niet alleen in diens columns aan de orde was maar dat dit door ging in zijn dagelijks leven. 

Over het plezier dat zijn vader beleefde aan burgerlijke ongehoorzaamheid, hoe hij dit zich als doel op zich leek te maken.


Het eigen Malle Hugo universum van zijn vader. Waar waarheid en fictie doel elkaar lopen. Waar wereldvreemdheid en publieke figuur met elkaar in gevecht zijn. Waar onverklaarbare zaken werden afgedaan met de uitleg: “Pirelli”. Waar kinderen kunnen weglopen en naar huis terugkeren zonder dat vader iets in de gaten heeft gehad.

Maar die ook een vader is die zijn kinderen leert te overleven door ze naar spartaanse zomerkampen te sturen.

Opperlandse Taal en Letterkunde stond bij ons thuis in de boekenkast. Ik vond het een heerlijk voorbeeld van zinloze wetenschap. Toch fantastisch dat iemand zoveel tijd besteed om met zoveel precies de meest onwaarschijnlijke taalwereld te scheppen.


Jelle heeft ook zijn universum, en lijkt de denken dat zijn universum de normale wereld is.
Het is een universum van een vriendelijke vervreemde reiziger, verdwaald in de echte wereld. Waar hij zich verwonderd over mondaine zaken, maar waar hem net als zijn vader vreemde zaken overkomen omdat hij vreemde zaken onderneemt.

Hugo Brandt Corstius./Hugo Brandt Corstius.

“Waarom trek ik toch altijd dit soort mensen aan? Zijn het de vragen die ik stel? Of is het andersom? Ben ik zelf op zoek naar dit soort mensen?”

Het is een universum dat ik ook vind in Murakami. Maar in Murakami overkomt het de protagonist echt.

Jelle is een zelfverkozen Murakami-karakter met een eigen wil, omringt door gekken. Geen gevaarlijke gekken, maar vriendelijke gekken.

The lightness of Purity

I wrote about the darkness of suppression of a totalitarian regime and how that influences the lives of people, when I discussed The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes and Jonathan purity-franzen-650Doerr’s All The Light We Can Not See.
Purity by Jonathan Franzen is the third book I recently read that is dominated by the totalitarian overcast. In this case the dictatorship is the DDR, East Germany during the times of the iron curtain.

All The Light disappears in a fountain of earth

All The Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr is one of the 3 books I recently read in which the tyranny of a totalitarian regime shapes the life of the main characters.
The other books are The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes and Purity by Jonathan Franzen.

All The Light is is V-shaped book. The legs of the V are the lives of the two protagonists. A German boy grows up under the Nazi regime. A French, blind girl lives in Paris. The story develops, we follow there lives and finally they meet. As if their lives we only meant for that one special occasion.