Mastering the Design Process

Speculative Design

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Mastering the Design Process

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The "Speculative Design" Lesson is part of the full, Mastering the Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul demonstrates the fallbacks of producing unpaid design work for prospective clients. Prospective clients, the designer, and new clients all take all the costs of unpaid design work.


Transcript from the "Speculative Design" Lesson

>> I'm hoping that there is nobody that still does speculative design that's in the chat that's watching us. Is there anyone from out of interest, if you're in the chat let me know. And don't worry I'm not gonna condemn you as a human being, because I know that clients do still ask for it.

Just to clarify what I mean by speculative design, speculative design is the practice of producing unpaid design work. For a prospective customer, or client to prove your capability to deliver it. And actually, it's really bad, it's really bad for everybody you do need to be avoiding it. Is anybody willing to admit that they do speculative design in chat?

>> The only note in there is never ask the client what you were thinking.
>> [LAUGH] Yeah, that is a very good comment. So, let me explain why speculative design is a problem, first of all, it costs everybody money, right.
>> This person said they did for their first job.

>> Yeah, and it's understandable, it's a thing that generally has fallen out of favor in the industry. But I just wanted to point out why it was so fundamentally wrong, and enable you to deal with clients that still occasionally ask for it. The first thing is it costs everybody money, right.

Let's say you hired me or you wanted to hire me to produce a design and so did you, right. Two of you both wanted to hire me. Both of you asked me to do speculative design, okay, so I do speculative design for both of you producing three designs for free.

Now you decide to hire me and you decide not to, okay. So where does the cost of your speculative design goes, right, you're not paying for it. So am I paying for it? Well, yeah, but if I'm paying for it, I have to recover that cost, don't I, cuz otherwise I go out of business, okay.

So who pays for it? Hello, that will be you, right, as the person that actually has hired me. So asking for speculative design, if you are serious about hiring somebody is very dangerous. Because you end up paying for every piece of speculative design they've done before. For other clients that haven't hired them, so it's really bad from a money point of view.

Secondly, it's about selling and not delivering, right. So it doesn't matter if I'm doing the right thing or not, doesn't matter about my design principles. It doesn't matter about user testing, none of that matters in speculative design. All that matters is that you like it, right, cuz I want you to hire me.

So I just designed for you, okay, so what does that mean then. So I've produced a completely inappropriate design just to make you like it. And you said, I like that, I'll hire you. So one of two things happens at this point. Either we go ahead with that horrendous design that's totally inappropriate, and you don't get what you need out of the project.

Or alternatively, we throw it away, all right, and start again in which case you're now paying for two lots of design work, okay. And in addition it's uninformed, right. When I'm doing a piece of speculative design I know that nothing about the users, nothing about the company. All I know is what you like and what you don't like, and even that I've got to guess that from asking a few questions.

And it's certainly not collaborative in any way, it's not involving the client. So anyway, that was just a little bit of an aside that I wanted to touch on before we got too much further. Yeah, what's being said in chat.
>> This person said, Ben said, you have to do it often would love to know how to get out of that loop.

>> Yeah, basically it's having the bravery to say no. And then to be able to back that up with what I've literally just shared, all right. So then, basically take this slide deck afterwards, go through these points on the screen right now. Cuz if you talk the client through each of those things, and also I suspect, I'm pretty sure if you go to my website and google.

Can't google on someone else's website, we can actually my search is driven by Google, but anyway. Go to my website and search on speculative design, and you'll get an article that comes up and talks you through this logic. And you basically say, look, we don't do speculative design because we believe that it is bad for our clients, right.

And then you explain why you believe it's bad for your clients. You don't say it's bad for me as an agency or a freelancer, cuz they don't care. But you do need to explain why it's bad for them. Now that feels like quite a brave thing to do.

But I promise you, at least in my experience, I win more work because I'm willing to challenge the client, and explain my logic. Than I do if I just roll over and do what they want, but even more significantly, it shifts the relationship with the client. So instead of you being a servant, down in abbey under the stairs yes sir no sir kind of person.

You become the peer that works with them to find a solution. So are you'll be willing to challenge a client and say, no, I'm not gonna do this, it's very good. And then there's a final reason why it's really good to do this, and have the bravery to do this.

Which is if you get heavy pushback from the client, and the client says, no, we want speculative design, that is a serious red flag. Because what it shows is they're not willing to listen to your opinion, and that they're stuck in their own process, in their own mindset.

And you will almost certainly lose money on that project, so that's my thoughts on speculative design

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