Stop Talking About Design

The best way to fall asleep is to not think about falling asleep. The best way to win an argument is to not argue at all. The best way to pass time is to not watch the time. The best way to double-dutch jump rope is to not focus on the rope. Life works in this strange way and feels rather counter-intuitive at times, and the business of design is no different.

The best way to talk about design is to not talk about design at all. It’s best to talk around it. Like dishes and sides around the dining room table at Thanksgiving encompassing the turkey which pedestals itself in the center—the conversations, stories, and moments of understanding happen when bowls of gravy and stuffing are passed across the table, not when the turkey is first set down. The meaningful conversations and points of discovery happen at the edges; in places of ambiguity and metaphor.

If you want to sell your work, if you want to talk about your design, if you want to have clients buy into your ideas, then you need to learn how to not talk about it.

Being direct in how you discuss design is the mark of a novice. The professional doesn’t burden their clients with the confusion of technicalities and terminology. Design isn’t intended to come with a dictionary. As my poetry professor so brilliantly put it, “One shouldn’t need a bulky theoretical apparatus to enjoy a bowl of ice cream.”

“One shouldn’t need a bulky theoretical apparatus to enjoy a bowl of ice cream.”

Talk not of white space and its importance as a means of balance or negative space, but rather, speak of white space as the silent pauses that have been intentionally sprinkled in the greatest speeches. Talk not of color or some specific red in regards to HEX values, print quality, or competitive analysis, but rather, speak of color or that specific red as a sunrise so rusty it could make one mistake a field of daisies for roses. Talk not of x-height metrics, but rather, speak of a 1964 Jeep Bronco, its proportions, and that feeling you’d get from sitting high in its seat.

When you become more indirect with how you approach and speak of design, you will become ever more specific and gripping in what you’re delivering. Just as the argument is often made that the best design is invisible—the best design isn’t talked about directly.