About being sensible

Missives from Hothouse Design

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How to waste your money or dumb things to get designers to do

Deirdre Wilson – Wednesday, September 24, 2014   


Avert your eyes now if you have more money than you know what to do with and are happy to spend it frivolously. This is for anyone working within a budget and looking for ways to stretch that budget as far as possible.

There are dumb ways to die and there are dumb things to get a designer to do. Designers have specialist skills and charge accordingly. Using a designer to do something that you can do yourself should be reserved for the crazy rich. Use designers for their ability to see the world differently to you, to ask questions and make decisions about things you never notice, to arrange content on a page / screen in such a way that it will be easier to read or facilitate learning. Use designers to choose typefaces for readability and to enhance the brand values of your company. Use designers to provide a different point of view when tackling problems.

But don't use designers to correct spelling or change punctuation or rearrange paragraphs in your report. Don't use designers to change your text, correct job titles, or edit your writing for improved understanding.

Designers can do all of those things but so can editors and so can you. Having the designer do them is easy money for the designer - who doesn't like switching to auto-pilot for an hour and fixing a bit of punctation for the same money as making decisions about user interfaces or the structure of a website.

So if you want to spend money where it will be most effective, tell your designer you want to "git me a bit of collaborative editing y'all" … yup, that was weird.

Collaborative editing is budget magic. It allows both the designer and the writer/client/editor to work on the same document at the same time. By setting up projects to use collaborative editing, you (assuming you are the client/editor) can make changes to the text component of you projects as much as you like until you are ready to approve it. Yep, no more author's corrections. Again, because I know this is important, no more author's corrections!

The final enormous bonus with producing documents this way is that location becomes irrelevant. Collaborative editing allows for remote editing because the document is shared via the cloud and not sitting on your hard drive.

Of course, at Hothouse Design, we can set up projects using collaborative editing - why would I write about it if we couldn't? So far we have set up collaborative editing for these type of projects: training manuals, brochures and annual reports. The next cab off the rank is a monthly report for a company in Africa that has staff who may not always be on site so the remote collaboration aspect is beneficial to them.

If your documents are long, or if they require lots of changes or if you just want the ability to write directly into the final document instead of into word, then collaborative editing is worth a peek.

And if you care about your budget, want lots of control and aren't always on site then this could work for you as well. Did I mention that it makes control freaks go weak at the knees?

At Hothouse Design we love a good book. Here's one that is sure to save you time and money by getting it right, the first time:

The Checklist Manifesto- How to get things right:   In his latest bestseller, Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it.

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

Basics. Know what they are. Get them right. Repeat.

About being sensible.

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