Pain-Free Design Sign-Off: Highlights from SXSW Session

This presentation by Paul Boag was one of the highlights of SXSW for me. In it, he proposes a fundamentally different way for designers and clients to work together. Even better, he gives concrete steps to move from confrontation to collaboration.

I wanted everyone I work with to hear it, but sadly, the complete video isn’t available. Happily, enough is posted to give a sense of the main points. There are two listening/watching options on his blog, and between them you’ll get a good idea of his approach.

  • A 5-minute highlight reel (2nd thing on the page). It captures the spirit of the presentation, but omits lots of detail.
  • His full rehearsal presentation, which unfortunately, doesn’t have the energy and polish of the live one. If you find it not holding your attention, with about 27 minutes left it gets more concrete — he starts talking about the principles he follows and a process that works better.

Here are some of the notes I took during the session, and where you can find corresponding material on the videos:

  • Designers get too defensive. We need to switch from confrontation to collaboration.
  • The client’s job is to find problems. Our job is to find solutions. (Bad: The client says move the logo 10 pixels to the right.)
  • Don’t ask what sites they like — everyone likes the BBC. Instead, show them sites you think might work for their audience, and get their reactions. (11:20 remaining on the full video)
  • Use mood boards instead of multiple design comps to get quick feedback on design elements and separate the aesthetics from the content. And do the mood boards before the wireframes.  (at 4:15 on the highlight video, or 9:50 left on the full video)
  • Do collaborative wireframing instead of going away and wireframing on your own. (4:45 on the highlight video, 7:30 left on the full video)

I think this approach matches the intention we bring to our work, but it was really helpful to hear it laid out like this, and with specific techniques we might want to try. I hope you find it helpful, too.