Usability & The Financial Agenda | Sarah Schiesser


The notion that budgets and funding are often the driving force in allowing designers to deliver the best possible solutions is an issue that is both relevant and problematic. In a short book entitled Our Daily Debates, students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam discuss design ethics and financial motivations over coffee, documenting their conversations. The students claim that it often comes down to the clients not always knowing what to ask for and not understanding the scope of possibilities available to them. It's not that people don't want innovative, functional design, it's that time and money play a bigger role in prohibiting the creative process to fully take shape and form. In another interesting conversation, the students concluded that design is either cheap, fast or good--pick any two! Think about it. If design is cheap and good, then it cannot be fast. If it's fast and cheap, it's unlikely that it will be very good and lastly, if it's good and fast, it's certainly not going to be cheap.

So what does this mean for us?

As designers, we use our skills to help focus and strengthen the messages and agendas for our clients. We have the ability to improve our surroundings if we produce comprehensive, conceptual design, but in practice, someone else generally dictates the agenda. Therefore, as individuals we have a moral choice about who we work for, although that decision is also typically influenced by our economic need. As a student, I naturally have idealistic views about design and with student loans paying for a majority of my expenses--let's face it, I have an unrealistic perception of the 'real world'. However, I wholeheartedly believe that if you're in design for the money--you're not in it for the right reasons. Yes, design isn't everything (and shouldn't be) but if you're invested in this profession beyond your bi-weekly paycheck, start looking beyond the financial barriers and don't allow money to motivate your design.

In an article by Joshua Johnson on, the author advises his fellow designers to take joy in designing for a living because it's what you love to do, rather than designing for financial gains. For Joshua, design was very much a part of him and how he viewed the world--so choosing this pathway wasn't a means to an end, but the only means to enjoy a fulfilling, passionate, inspired life. I can apply these same ideals to my personal experience with design. If I stop and think about everything I've gained from my design education alone, the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. Yes, I may one day regret those all-nighters in the studio, vending machine meals, and the cigarettes that helped me cope with stress, however, the human interaction, the collaboration with fellow creatives, the understanding and desire to demand better of our society and the thrill of being able to create has been an ultimately fulfilling experience that I hope will continue into my professional career.


Larsen, Nina Stottrup. Our Daily Debates. Veenman Publishers (2007).

Johnson, Joshua. "Why Money Shouldn't Motivate Design." July 2010.


I totally with your last statement. I think the thing that I have learned the most about being a designer and design student is the ability let my brain open up to all the possibilities! It sounds so cliche to say that no idea is a bad idea, but this is something I have actually started to really embrace and it has taught me a lot. As designers we are able to take and retain information and influences from anything and everything and with the world at our finger tips. If we open up are minds to all ideas, we will intern take them and build upon them. As a designer yes we have "limits" and "restrictions" but if we forget about limits and restrictions and if we allow ideas to brew and flow and create for how ever long they need to the end result, whenever/whatever it is reached will be something not only fulfilling but beneficial but hopefully ultimately something to better society! I didn't exactly know what I was getting into when I started the design program, but having gone through it, it is no longer a program, it has become a way of life, a life I enjoy!

It's so true that if you want to be a good designer, you can't design for money. Or not even be a good designer, but just enjoy what you do! Where I work now I made a comment to my boss that even though I have to come in on Saturdays sometimes to finish projects, it's nice that those extra hours show up on my paycheck. She told me that yes, that's true, but that once you're salaried you get used to putting in your 40 hours by Wednesday pretty quick. At first I was appalled because I hated the thought of putting in so many hours and still getting paid the same. But then the more I thought about it, the more I'm realizing that that probably will be the case for me. Because as long as I have money to live on (which I don't need very much!) I don't care about making the big bucks, and I care more about getting the project done right. I never thought I would say that but just like you said, you can't have it all and you honestly enjoy yourself so much more when you just accept that you'll be working overtime!

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Schiesser published on December 2, 2010 11:28 PM.

Fun and the Environmental Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter was the previous entry in this blog.

Profit | Social | Kirk Steineck is the next entry in this blog.

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