Act Like a Designer

I usually don’t like books, movies, or TV shows about Hollywood: they seem too self-serving. The one exception to this is the reality show Project Greenlight, where industry neophytes get to make a movie. One thing that’s great about it is that it shows like nothing else I’ve ever seen the effect of business decision on the creative process. Only have three million dollars? Ok, well, the monsters are going to look terrible and we need to rewrite half the movie. CEO doesn’t like the movie? It only opens in three theaters. The effect of these types of business decisions upon what gets made is something that is seldom shown.

This season of Project Greenlight was particularly interesting because of the director they chose: John Gulager. Gulager was a very untraditional choice: introverted, older, and uncommunicative. And yet very talented. What was so interesting was watching him grow into the role of director, having to actually tell people his vision of the movie they were making. The producers and crew assumed he had a vision, but had no idea what that was, and so there was chaos until he learned how to talk to people like a director.

In a collaborative field like filmmaking or interaction design, all the vision and all the talent in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t communicate it to the team you are working with. And not just communicate it, communicate it like a designer, with a design attitude. You need the right ethos (the authority of a designer) to meet the expectations of the audience (that you know what you are doing). You are crafting an argument, after all: an argument of what the product should be.

Like many of the intangibles of our field, I’m not sure this can be taught, only learned.

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