Red Herring Design

by New Idiom


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No, Red Herring Design isn’t the name of new firm you should be dying to get hired at, it’s a method of creative negotiating that I’ve used and think some people could benefit from.

At my old job, when a project I was working on needed to be reviewed, sometimes I would add small details that I intended on losing. Not a lot, but just enough that when my boss came to review my work, he would want me to remove them and I was more than happy to oblige. In fact, I usually had an alternative solution ready so that I would look like I really had my stuff together. That way, when it came to making changes to something I really cared about, I had a much stronger argument as to why I should keep it. I mean, I had already “given up” so much stuff. It’s a new twist on the classic Red Herring.

So why not use this when working with future clients? I’ve never read “The Art of War,” but I know a little bit from watching the movies Breakin and Electric Boogaloo. In a war, you have to take as many punches as you give out, or to put it nicely, compromise. No one will win without getting hit at all. So why not design in the areas you want to get hit so you know where the damage will be, or at least be aware of your designs weak areas and don’t get married to them. From there, you’ll also be better prepared at how to deal with those blows.

Now, when a client comes in to mark his or her territory like a graffiti artist tagging a wall (because they will), you can just sit back and relax because you knew what they wanted to change. Plus, that way the client has put insight and ownership in the project, making them feel like a bigger part of the process. Check and mate.

This device shouldn’t be overused for fear of people thinking that you’re just a horrible designer, however designing in defects can be a useful tool and also help in the iteration process. But whatever the case, try to remember not to get caught up in defending everything you do, because you will never be able to keep the things you really care about and then you’ll be the one who gets served.