In a utopia, there would be a person for every job and a job for every person. We don’t live in a utopia. Whether you are a startup or a global corporation, the odds are good you can’t afford to have every role silo’d. It’s just too expensive – either in dollars or time (or both).
A Renaissance Designer brings a mix of skills to the task of delivering a great product. They should poses a solid foundation in their own discipline of design – user research, ideation, sketching, user testing, mockups, etc. They should also possess at least rudimentary skills typically bestowed on the team segments they work with. It’s true, whether we are talking industrial design, print media, or software design.
An industrial designer should understand the manufacturing process for materials – how plastic flows, how strong it is, the limitations of a carbon fiber layup, or the methods of combining fiberglass with metal.
A visual design working for a print media company should understand the side effects of the print process, bleed, and the limitations of scaling.
A software designer should understand the fundamentals of the UI framework, the constructs of HTML & CSS, or be familiar with the platform UI interfaces.
A Renaissance Designer is more adept at working side by side with their engineering and technical brethren. When there is a relatively seamless collaboration between designer and technician, they are able to more quickly develop a concept, test it with end users, iterate it, refine it, and productize it.
Using a web application example, the UX Designer creates a mockup of an idea and tests it with end users and then conveys the mockup to a developer to codify. There are clear boundaries. A Renaissance Designer may create an interactive mockup or ask a developer to create a rough prototype; then apply all of the necessary CSS to visually match the design. The result is a more seamless transition – a blurring of the lines – between the design tasks and the development tasks.
It seems intuitive but often, companies over delineate roles. This slows progress, establishes an “us vs. them” environment, and results in less design reaching the end user.
Can’t find a Renaissance Designer? No problem. Look for is a Designer who is curious to learn. The range and depth of skills they need is easily attained as projects and tasks evolve. You get an invaluable asset and they get a nearly endless dose of fresh challenges.