04/17/2014 03:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Seven Deadly Sins of Design


All professions, from used car sales, banking, politics and yes - even design, have a degree of "smoke and mirrors" associated with them. However, while providing a short-term advantage, these can never be part of a long-term sustainable strategy. As Abraham Lincoln said: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people, all the time."

So, - in a global spirit of openness, transparency and inclusiveness, the creative community was invited to share what they see as the "Seven Deadly Sins" of design. Well aware that a rule listing "don'ts" may be a sin in itself, and less useful than a guide with positive "do's", we have consolidated all the excellent suggestions received into the following top seven recommendations:

1) Right Design Attitude: Be present, open, transparent, realistic, idealistic and optimistic. Do more than your share, promote proactivity, and establish ownership, responsibilities and accountability. Provide mentoring, remove roadblocks and pick up the slack. A certain measure of humility is becoming in an expert, since it increases the ability to make good decisions.
- Vanity is the Devil's favorite sin.

2) Promote Investment in Collaboration: Include everyone from the beginning of a project and keep the team continuously informed and included in the decision-making process. Though design is important, it is only five percent of the process and relies heavily on collaboration and trust to create sustainable value.
- Envy is one of the seven deadly sins.

3) Framing & Approach: Use systems thinking, be systematic and have a process in place. Pay close attention to the competition and to user needs as well as cultural issues. Focusing on the competition will provide novel ideas, while focusing on the user will provide meaningful ideas. Question assumptions, point out contradictions and move ahead with knowing rather than guessing. Continuously checking and reducing risk is key to the design process.
- Not doing one's homework is the sin of Sloth.

4) Think win-win, because over promising and under delivering is a form of overcharging the client.
- This must be the sin of greed.

5) Project Management: Think of design in terms of business, have a written brief (with measurable specifics such as criteria, phases and approvals). Then, create realistic budgets, schedules and deliverables, expected investments, sales, market share, revenues and margins, while building sustainable dynamic capabilities. Being unclear about what needs to be done, biting off more than one can chew and then having to rush deliverables, creates an invisible inherent risk associated with speed.
- Could be conceived as the sin of gluttony.

6) Decision-making: Goal setting and effectively balancing design criteria (form, function, producible, profitable, . . .). Taking the larger view while paying attention to details, without laboring endlessly and continuing to design for design's sake.
- Might this be a designers' version of lust?

7) Leader of design: Be a good example, strive for perfection but reward excellence. Treat everyone with respect, give credit where credit is due, comply with legal matters and resist procrastination. Celebrate the successes and learn from the failures. Not speaking up and offering alternatives when one knows something cannot be done, does not relive one of the responsibility to do so.
- This may show up as wrath.

The world of design is very small. By making dubious tradeoffs on any of the above key success influencers, one risks going straight to Hell or, at least to Dante's Inferno. All of the deadly 'Design Sins are directly related to personal choices the designers make and the upside is that the designers are the ones who can also correct these choices.