Matt Basile • July 21, 2023

How to have better design conversations

Use these tips to have better conversations.

Two lovely humans having a conversation.

The need to communicate complex ideas will never escape folks working in technology. As of late I’ve noticed that those who are very successful at conveying advanced topics rely on a few basic principles to help guide these conversations.

1. Know your audience

Every conversation I walk into I try to understand who am I talking to? With the intention of uncovering, “how well are they going to understand my problem with no context?”. To define this I usually ask these 3 questions:

  1. How well do they understand the current problem I’m grappling with:
  1. What’s their existing understanding of the solutions we’ve developed?
  1. What’s their understanding of the tools I have at my disposal to solve problems?
    • Are they design oriented?
    • Do they have a technical background?

Using these questions I’m able to define a clear path to how much context is required to achieve the next step.

2. Define what you need to get out of the conversation

Once you understand your audience, you’ve positioned yourself in the right spot to maximize their outputs. You can now shape the conversation to meet their context and ultimately unlock what you need out of them.

Defining what you need from an individual or group is hard. Sometimes you’ll go into a conversation without knowing what you need from them, but the clearer the ask or hypothesis you have going into the conversation the odds of having a productive interaction will increase.

To develop that ask, really think about what is this group/person’s context, skills and expertises. Learning from folks that have unique context into a specific skill or concept

Heck! You’re asking them to take time out of their busy day, don't waste their time by developing your ask on the fly. Come to the conversation with a solid understanding of what you need from that person and lead with that from the get go.

3. Make artifacts

One of our core principles is, Show > tell, we believe that the tangible outputs foster better understanding than only verbal explanations. Meaning that when we come to a conversation, we like to have something to help supplement the conversation. Now, this doesn’t need to be hi-fidelity mockups it can be as rudimentary as a wireframe, a sketch or a few powerpoint slide, but ultimately we’ve found that if you have a visual artifact to support your primary speaking points it can go a long way in helping to visualize and express the points you’d like to get across.

Final thoughts

It’s crazy, but 90% of what we think about is how we can articulate a client’s problem back to them. In a world where we’re constantly asked to visualize, the muscle we flex everyday is our communication skills. If every day, our team can get better at knowing our audience, defining our needs, and creating artifacts, I'm confident in our ability to solve any design problem thrown our way.

Looking to build or improve your own digital product? We'd love to help.

Hungry for more?