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Inside Your Designer's Head, and More Dirty Little Secrets

This week, Stuart Karten will be answering your most pressing innovation inquiries and design dilemmas.

Inside Your Designer's Head, and More Dirty Little Secrets

Dear Stuart,

I just started working with this design firm and they seem amazing, but I'm concerned they may be just trying to impress me. How can I tell if they're for real or just putting up a front?

For real?
Façade or Not

Dear Façade or Not,

If they have a penchant for black clothing and large watches, they are real. But seriously, like the beginnings of any relationship, people tend to be on their best behavior. Trying to impress you is a good thing! Time will be your best tool. What you should remember is that it takes two to tango. So keeping your designers engaged with projects they find exciting, providing full transparency into your business objectives and introducing designers to stakeholders beyond yourself are a just a few things you can do.

dear stuartStuart


Dear Stuart,

Sometimes I want to have some alone time with my internal team. But my designer is always pestering me to talk out my decisions and share my thoughts. How can I get him to ease up?

Private Patron

Dear Private Patron,

It sounds to me like your designer is just doing his job, or at least what he considers to be his job. Designers these days are good for more than just pretty pictures. By understanding your company, your industry and your customers, a good designer can use his or her creative powers to help your business grow by introducing cost-saving manufacturing processes and unexpected materials, or innovative product lines that entice new buyers. With this in mind, you may find it in your best interest to open up.

Remember, it's all about communication and making sure that you and your designer share the same expectations for your relationship. If you're not interested in blazing new paths—if you really are just looking for that incremental next-generation silver media player with sexier curves and a smaller housing that keeps you in the commodity cul de sac—you can still feel free to politely tell your designer to back off.



Dear Stuart,

I've been working with the same designer for years, and I really love him. He is very creative, and has developed many ideas for products that have made my company a ton of cash. But he has one small habit that drives me nuts...he constantly misspells my name in emails and presentations. What should I do?

Sinead Spitzfarger

Dear Shi Sinade S,

Is that really how your name is spelled? You may want to give him a pass on this one. Designers aren't usually known for winning spelling bees.


Got a burning question for Stuart? Leave it in the comments and we'll be sure to get it answered.

Illustration by Greg Clarke.

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For 25 years, Stuart Karten Design (SKD) has been a strategic partner to companies seeking to differentiate their products through creativity and design. Connecting creativity with commerce, SKD designs products that serve as brand ambassadors for its clients and lead to greater market share and increased profit. SKD's team includes 25 includes designers, researchers and mechanical engineers who can guide a product from design conceptualization through final production. SKD is especially renowned for its medical products and its ear-centric devices, which have included communication headsets for Jabra and Plantronics, the Zōn hearing aid for Starkey Laboratories and noise-cancelling ear buds for Ultimate Ears.

SKD has been the recipient of numerous awards, including IDEA, Red Dot, iF, Good Design and the I.D. Annual Design Review. Conceptual "Epidermits Interactive Pet" was a part of Museum of Modern Art's recent Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition. In 2008, Fast Company magazine named SKD among America's top five "Design Factories" in its annual Masters of Design issue. Located near the beach in Marina del Rey, SKD is tapped into the cutting edge culture that defines Los Angeles with our fingers on the pulse of the trends that will affect the nation.