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Design Types

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that people engage themselves in one of two mental functions: taking in (perceiving) or organizing (judging). Although people are capable of doing them both, he found that we prefer to do one in lieu of the other: preference. We’re naturally comfortable within our psychological preference because work comes easily, and we don’t get frustrated trying to maneuver outside of our knowledge base.

When it comes to working in the studio, we each have preferences. Although we find ourselves playing many roles at once, in truth, we work best when we work within our preference. If I am told to work on a design project where I must code and author using ActionScript in Flash, I could do it. It would take me far more energy since it requires me to utilize a different set of skill sets, and learn some new ones along the way. However, if I am told to create a series of user interfaces in Freehand that will be translated into a functioning Flash site by the coders, the project would be more comfortable, intuitive, and natural.

We’re able to focus on what we do best in an area we feel most confident—the area we prefer. Taking a cue from Jung and the Myers-Briggs scheme, I’ve laid out the following design types with some of the skill sets, abilities, or talents used for each:

Originators: insightful, use their creative minds to begin a project, are powerful in brainstorming sessions, they are stictly idea people who are comfortable allowing others to generate forms and solutions, rely on internal or external energy to guide their choices

Form Givers: translate ideas into form, work well when taking information, and are able to perceive the needs of others

Nurturers: understand how to take givens and develop them, their goal is improvement and extending a project’s overall worth, are comfortable working within constraints where reinventing the wheel might not be possible, they make the best using the least

Strategists: well-organized people who take pride in the structure and planning of a project, they enjoy visualizing the course of action, and forecasting milestones that keep work on track for achieving victory

Managers: resourceful, oversee the team and direct them to work well together, delivering tasks to the right person for the right job

Dispatchers: understands the audience/demographics, capable of spotting what they desire and are willing to engage in field research that helps the team understand what people will need or want, can forecast trends based on intuition or analysis

Which of the above types best describes your preference?
Are there types you see missing? If so define them.

Of a related matter: Myers-Briggs Foundation.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Mar.22.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Bryony’s comment is:

Without a doubt we can usually categorize people we work with into such groups, but

what do you do with the one that is good at several things?

Do you give him/her a chance to explore the different options until choosing the strongest?

Do you push him/her in the direction you think best fits?

For good of bad, I am a strategist, what with my lists, my color coding and my constant organizing and analyzing, my scrutinizing and piecing of elements. On a second level, I would have to go for a split between being an originator and a manager. I enjoy the pre-design process more than the design development, in my mind few things are more exciting than a new project/problem/dream in front of me, a few intelligent people to share the debate along with a “few” cups of coffee.

On Mar.22.2004 at 02:46 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

I think I'm mostly an Originator, but have some Nurturer and Dispatcher in me too. Can you fix it, doc?


On Mar.22.2004 at 04:07 PM
graham’s comment is:

what's a 'skill-set'?

On Mar.22.2004 at 04:23 PM
Jason’s comment is:

A skill set is a group of abilities or talents.

On Mar.22.2004 at 04:39 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Like Bryony, I'm part of several, depending on the situation. But I would also suggest that these are migratory stages of development as well, not just innate modes we hold for life.

Early in my career, I was more of a form-giver and originator -- b/c that was my primary role. As I gained more experience, I learned to become more of a strategist, and now, accomplish more by being a dispatcher and manager for my team.

But I've never been a nurturer. No big surprise there.

I'm also a procrastinator. Wait...is that a category?

On Mar.22.2004 at 06:28 PM
Javier’s comment is:

I enjoy being a Form Giver the most.

I love translating an idea into visual representation and can spend hours tweaking curves of and abstract shape in a logo. Lately I am called on to be a manager and strategist - neither of which I prefer although I make the best of it.

What about a Rescuer?

I find that I enjoy fixing a crisis or problem, whether it's technical or client related. Kind of like saving the day when others can't get over the hurdle.

Guess I'll put away my Superman cape now . . .

On Mar.22.2004 at 07:52 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Up. Up, and away.

On Mar.22.2004 at 11:02 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

If we go with Tan's idea that these are migratory stages of development, since Jason did not seem to have this in mind, we cannot presume that the given order is the actual order of progression. We would have to find a basis for establishing an order of these stages.

The first problem with the theory of these categories as stages is that there are no inherent claims to superiority among them. It does not seem objectively preferable to be any one of them, so this set of categories is more like Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, and inherits the same problem: it takes the flawed idea of an intelligence quotient, and using that as a basis, expands the definition to include everything and everyone to make everybody feel good about themselves in some way.

When we mention that these might be stages of development, we have in mind a theory of growth, that it is possible to grow through the attainment of these stages. Also in mind along with the idea of growth are the ideas of maturation and, more covertly, ethical development (because I, for one, would like to think that the greatest designer should also be a supremely ethical person just by definition; the relation between morality and design is deeply engrained in our thinking--supposedly an omni-benevolent being "designed" (think teleology) our world, and our efforts to play God always include that basic intention toward omni-benevolence, misguided or not. To grow as a designer would be to become less misguided in those efforts.)

But there are problems with trying to force these categories into a theory of progressive design-competencies. A better approach would be to look toward existing work in the areas of cognitive development or ethics and find relations between theories found there and our own existing concepts of design competency.

But back to the hypothetical problem. Was I right to say that there are no inherent claims to superiority in these categories? After all, the person with the strategic intelligence to lead an army has a certain kind of power over those physically-genius soldiers. No matter how skilled they are, the combat situation is given to them by someone with strategic, though not necessarily moral intelligence. These kinds of intelligence avoid an ethical progression, but there is still a power progression, a system of worldly superiors and inferiors. Managers are certainly superior to Nurturers in a certain way; they tell everyone what to do. Originators are even more powerful, as managers can only follow their lead. Perhaps Dispatchers should be considered at the top level of development, since they, through communication, help to coordinate the interests of everyone, resolve conflicts of interest, and improve general understanding of the situation. They are certainly superior to Originators, whose ideas are unchecked by intersubjective argumentation.

On Mar.23.2004 at 01:50 AM
Armin’s comment is:

There is a small article in this month's Fast Company regarding Dow Chemical's VP using the Myers-Briggs method to divide his staff into those categories. It mentioned that product launches at Dow were taking anywhere between 5-6 years before he implemented the system and now, with the system in place and various workforce changes (read layoffs), product launches take 1-2 years and there have been more in the past 2 years than in the past 10. (Numbers are approximate, as I don't have the issue with me). So go figure.

Tom, you do raise a good point. Inherent to these categories is a sense of "status". And perhaps instead of unifying and leveling the titles of staff it divides it even more. Categorizing people is never a good idea, however everybody has different skills than others and it is important to understand those differences and make the best of them. Let's use a typical design firm as an example where you have a Creative Director (originator), a Designer (form giver) and a Production Artist (dispatchers, tweaking the definition a little). Obviously, this comes with the usual salary differences and "prestige". (I'm not saying this is the right way to do things, just pointing out how things work).

The CD should be the one setting the tone, the big ideas, the major understanding of the client and unless totally necessary you don't want him/her optimizing hundreds of images for the web or kerning financials in an annual report because 1) s/he might not have the technical knowledge and 2) s/he can concentrate on other "bigger stuff".

The Designer should be concerned with making the CD's ideas a tangible reality without worrying too much about where the next client will come from, that's the CD's responsibility and why you don't want him/her doing dispatching.

The Production Artist has the responsibility to get stuff done, whatever that is. He has technical skills that designers and CDs don't have and facilitates the creation of the CD's vision and the Designer's visual solution.

That there is a food chain trend with this scenario is simply a reflection of what we place more value on. Ideas are hard to come by which is why Originators are at the "top", repetitive tasks that anyone with the right training can do lamentably go lower.

In an ideal world we would all do a little bit of each category and make a project better by bringing together skill-sets rather than isolating them in an assembly-line fashion. But we rarely live in an ideal world.

On Mar.23.2004 at 08:51 AM
graham’s comment is:

this was such a depressing discussion.

then armin brightened it up with his dow chemicals example.

now i've really had my faith in these discussions restored.

smells like . . . victory.

On Mar.23.2004 at 10:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> smells like . . . victory.

Thank you Mr. Sarcasmo.

I wasn't implying that that was a great thing to do by Dow, just an instance where cold-blooded disregard for people's jobs and lives pays off for the bigger picture. Which brings up Tom's ethical concern.

On Mar.23.2004 at 10:48 AM
Jason’s comment is:

I've been reading a lot about small studios lately, where 2 or 3 person teams are doing everything. They manage to get the projects done in a timely fashion, but I wonder if that's the best way of working. According to Armin, Dow Chemicals made some adjustments for the better; I'm stunned by their numbers (5-6 vs 1-2 years). Can a company like that be compared to a design firm?

As for the hierarchy, each studio establishes the pecking order and in no way does my listing address chain of command. Still, it's an interesting topic to explore. Perhaps there are other hierarchies than we're used to that could enhance a studio's efficiency in the same way Dow changed.

On Mar.23.2004 at 10:50 AM
Kyle’s comment is:

The point of Myers-Briggs, and I assume by extension, Jason's categories, is not to establish hierarchies, stages of development, superiority, etc., but to help people better understand an individual’s personality and factors which motivate their behavior.

So any one of Jason’s examples could be a CD, but if that person and those that work with him are aware of the personality type, they can all tailor their interactions to come up with a process that is beneficial and efficient for everyone. For example, I know I’m an INFP (on the Myers-Briggs scale), so if I’m leading a team with a bunch of other introverts, I could guess that launching a project with a raucous brainstorming session probably wouldn’t get the best results. But if I have everyone come up with some ideas on their on then bring them into a crit, I would expect a much better outcome.

It’s all about understanding.

On Mar.23.2004 at 11:29 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Well put, Kyle. Understanding is a big part of it. Moreover, it's about understanding your talents and making the most of your assets.

On Mar.23.2004 at 11:38 AM
david e.’s comment is:

i'm equal parts originator, form giver, nurturer and manager — but that doesn't mean i enjoy all of it equally. the hardest and sometimes most painful part for me is the "originator" role. once i get going on a project and fall into the the "form giver" role, i start to really enjoy my work. I love it when the project starts to take shape.

as for your description of a nurturer: i'm definetely good at making the best using the least, since this is what i've spent most of my career so far doing. perhaps someday someone will give a big budget to art direct something extravagant, but until then…

hmmm. i'm starting to feel like i'm interviewing for a job.

On Mar.23.2004 at 11:52 AM
graham’s comment is:

a lot of this reminds of what goes on at wernham-hogg

On Mar.23.2004 at 12:11 PM
Su’s comment is:

Yah. Screw Originators and whatnot. I want to know who's Gareth.

But since I'm here, and not that I'm working in a studio anyway, I want a Packrat category. If you need a PostScript topographical map of Canada or outlines of obscure European car models, call me.

On Mar.23.2004 at 02:19 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

> Screw Originators

Get your ass in line.


On Mar.23.2004 at 02:40 PM