As kids, writing is one of the first and most complex things we learn (for a certain age), which helps us understand reality and develops our critical thinking. Have you ever wondered about that?
Writing follows us during our academic life as an essential skill, and some might feel this skill tends to be left out over time, depending on your work's nature. However, it's one of the most valuable job competencies anyone needs.
At Pixelmatters, we couldn't be more fond of that. Writing is an inherent habit in our processes, and one of our oldest practices is the Asynchronous Design Presentation. There are several ways to present your designs to your client, but this one is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and effective.
I will talk about Pixelmatters’ writing processes, focusing on the Design subject.
An inside look into Design writing processes
You might be wondering… Why should I write about Design? Shouldn't the Design be speaking for itself? Am I doing something wrong? Let me present to you the core reasons for us to write instead of just doing the talk:
- Clarity of the thought process - Writing helps you follow a clear line of thought towards your design decisions. It also makes you think twice about the choices you've made, which is healthy for work's evolution;
- Reachable miles away - With clients worldwide working in different time zones, asynchronous processes make sense now more than ever. You send the designs to your client, along with your written presentation, and while they're analyzing, we move on with your tasks, keeping a fluid pace;
- Optimization of feedback loops - Some questions might be clarified in advance if you write your decisions down. By reducing the amount of client feedback, you reduce your iterations cycles, achieving higher speed;
- Easier to digest the information - Clients can read and reply to the communication at their own pace without rushing into an answer while assimilating design concepts;
- Fomenting design culture and importance - Not all clients are 100% design-driven, and writing can create a common ground with a shared language, where clients start to understand and feel closer to the design's work nature;
- Tracking of the discussion - It's a great way to keep track of what was or is being discussed, and it's always available for anyone to access, preventing important decisions from getting lost in translation and facilitating the handover.
We can break down the writing process into these two steps:
- Writing to ourselves - This first part usually happens while you're designing. It can be informal and chaotic at times; it's more of an internal conversation about your own decisions. It's also helpful to ensure you won't forget anything important when writing your final presentation.
- Writing to others - The second part is structured and organized, and you should be careful about how others will perceive your communication. We always have in mind the purpose of the piece we're writing, striving for clear and straightforward messaging.
The combination of these two results in our Asynchronous Design Presentation. But let's recall one of the primary reasons for writing anything — communicating with others and stimulating their interest in reading. And you might ask: “How can I guarantee my written presentation follows these principles?” Here are some suggestions to improve your writing:
1. Keep it simple — This might sound super obvious, but it’s also one of the biggest challenges you will face, the reason why it should be the first thing to have in mind.
- How? Technical language can be hard to transform into something approachable. Keep in mind that readers on the other side don’t live in your brain, and they might not have your technical knowledge. Run from fancy words, and search for synonyms that might be easier to digest. Ah, and don’t over-explain!
2. Ask the right questions — Good writing is about raising important issues. By doing that, you create awareness on the other side of what the main concerns should be about.
- How? The key to making persuasive arguments is to ask simple questions, explaining logically the impact each decision can have on the product;
3. Write what you mean — Show your creative insights confidently, leaving room for flexibility and keeping your mind open to constructive feedback.
- How? It’s simple, you already run through the writing to ourselves stage*,* so you know your why’s better than anyone. Your why’s should be the focus rather than the what’s — clients can see the what’s in the design.
4. Take a walk and read it again — Writing can be a challenging exercise, even with all the tips and supporting documentation. Try to read again as it was the first time or as an external reader. You’ll find interesting improvements when you less expect.
- How? Well, this one is very self-explanatory. Just take a walk, and get some fresh air. Come back and re-focus.
5. Show it to someone else — Don’t obsess over it. If you feel blocked, share it with your colleagues. It’s always good to have a pair of fresh eyes reviewing your presentation.
- How? External insights can be hard to manage because people have different ways of both writing and reading. Show it to someone you trust and the most capable person to review it, so it doesn’t get overwhelming.
Albert Einstein once said: If you can’t explain simply, you don’t understand it well enough. But the digital product area changed how we communicate and interact, where context is key. Complex concepts need to be explained and fully understood. Product Designers aren’t a group of creatives making eye-candy mockups. (Well, we are also that!)
Writing presentations to your clients explaining the rationale behind your work creates awareness of the decisions. A lot of your work still relies on common belief/sense. Writing habits help you put your decisions into words effectively.
Some find it strange initially because they aren't used to it or because they feel writing is not for them. But over time, with practice and consistency, writing becomes a superpower.