Designers Shouldn’t Be Taxi Drivers

Designers Shouldn’t Be Taxi Drivers by Ottawa Graphic Designer idApostle

The following is an excerpt from Creating the Perfect Design Brief, How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage by Peter L. Phillips.

“Over the years, I have traveled a great deal all over the world. When I arrive at the airport in a city, I have a business problem to be solved. I am at the airport and I need to get to my hotel. As I leave the terminal building, I usually see a number of taxis waiting to take passengers to their destinations. All I have to do is tell the taxi driver exactly where I want to go. The taxi takes me to my destination, and I pay a fee for this service.

What I would really prefer is to have a transportation consultant available. There are often booths in airports with signs that say “Information.” Unfortunately, there are usually hundreds of pamphlets, but no one to speak with.

I would deeply appreciate the opportunity to explain my business needs to a transportation expert. I am the expert in my business need—to get to a certain destination—but I am not an expert in the best way to get there. I have time constraints, budget constraints, and perhaps other issues that I would need to explain to this expert consultant. The expert would then present me with a number of options, each with its own unique abilities to solve my problem: A taxi service will be direct, but cost more than a shuttle van. The shuttle van is cheaper, but it will probably take longer depending upon the number of other passengers in the van and their particular destinations. There is a train that is even less expensive and quite fast, but it would drop me ten blocks from my destination.

Hopefully you understand my point. Too many designers are satisfied to be simply taxi drivers. “Tell me exactly where you want to go, pay me, and I’ll take you there.” I don’t want designers to be taxi drivers. I want designers to be transportation consultants respected for their expertise. A truly collaborative design brief process can make a major difference in the way design is perceived by nondesign executives.”

Many thanks to Allworth Press and Peter L. Phillips for permitting me to reprint this excerpt. Creating the Perfect Design Brief is a must buy for graphic designers and clients who approach graphic design as a strategic tool.

How to Write a Design Brief

In a related post by the Design Council, have a peek at their “free guide for small businesses, public services and anyone commissioning a designer.” It includes several videos of Peter L. Phillips. The example below shows Peter discussing the benefits of a design brief for small companies:

Design Briefing: For SMEs from Design Council on Vimeo.


  • Felipe says:
    Jan 18 at 11:51

    Amazing article, It’s true, I live in México and It is hard to make common people belive in design, and It’s even harder with small companies. Part of this problem might be that the owners are just fine with they “small profits” and they never expect to be better or to become a really big company, they see that future as impossible, they try to save every little cent they can. So It’s a matter of perception and conviction of the whole company that they could be better, and using design as part of that comprehensive development.

    I’m 24 years old, I have just three years of experience. Yes, I’ve been a taxi driver. What I’ve learned It’s that first you must respect your work, then make clients respect it, only then you can advice them or guide them, because they see you as an expert and take your words seriously. If I’m not able to earn that respect, then I’m not really a professional.

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