This is a brilliant perspective from Teehan + Lax on focusing first on impact, goals, and outcomes—and then—proceeding to the actual deliverable.

How often, when you begin an assignment, do you have a clear understanding of what outcomes are desired by your client? 

An outcome is different than a deliverable. An outcome is the impact, benefit or change that is desired. A deliverable is a product of work…

All too often we focus on deliverables rather than outcomes when we design. Clients are quick to specifically request what they want delivered rather than the outcomes they need. 

We need to setup clear outcomes up front and then let the design process define the deliverables.

In the bustling marketplace of ideas and innovations, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the tangibles, the deliverables, the things we can point to and say, “I made this.” But here’s the rub: focusing solely on deliverables is like judging a book by its cover without ever delving into the story. It’s superficial. It misses the essence.

Consider this: clients come to us with a vision, a pain point, a dream. They know what’s keeping them up at night, but they’re not always fluent in the language of solutions. They say, “I need a website,” or “I want an app,” but what they’re really saying is, “I need to connect,” “I want to be heard,” “I need to solve a problem.” They’re not in the market for a website or an app per se; they’re in the market for outcomes, for transformation.

Herein lies our calling as designers, as architects of change. Our job isn’t to take orders like a short-order cook in a diner; it’s to engage, to consult, to dive deep into the why before we even start thinking about the what. The true art of design isn’t in the deliverable; it’s in the outcome. It’s in understanding that what we’re really crafting isn’t a thing, but a change, an impact, a new reality.

So, let’s flip the script. Instead of asking clients for their shopping list, let’s ask them about their hopes, their dreams, their challenges. Let’s set clear, impactful outcomes right from the get-go and let those outcomes guide the design process. The deliverables? They’ll emerge, as if by magic, shaped not by a spec sheet, but by the story we’re helping to write.

In this dance between client and designer, it’s our expertise, our insight, our creativity that transforms needs into solutions, visions into realities. It’s what sets the professionals apart from the amateurs. We’re not just creating; we’re problem-solving, we’re storytelling, we’re making lives better. And that, my friends, is the heart of great design.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.