A coworker of mine at Google recently asked why I decided attend the Design Management program at Pratt Institute. It was a good question, and one that I would have answered differently back in August 2010. After the end of the first year, my answer is that my decision had to do with a personal journey to settle my ‘dueling personalities’ – form versus function, nuance versus logic, and art versus science. I felt that pursing a Masters in Design Management would allow these opposing forces to coexist.
Google is an unlikely employer for a classically trained graphic designer. But my reasons for being at Google have to do with the work culture, the brain trust, and the design risk and challenge of working for an engineering company. I welcome the challenge of balancing creativity with logic.
After a year at Pratt, I noticed it was the same sort of hybrid environment with both right-brained ingenuity and art and left-brained analysis and function. It is a balancing act between business and design. Here are the top three balancing acts from my first year in Pratt’s Design Management program:
1. Personal vs. Professional Values: In the first week, we created a values triangle to identify our top three personal and professional values. I found that my top three were self-respect, trust and acceptance. I then compared these values to what I believed were Google’s core values (Intelligence, Transparency, and Universal). The alignment of these values pointed to why Google was a great fit for me even after four years.
- Intelligence = self-respect and delivery of one’s ideas and beliefs.
- Transparency = trust within an organization and relationships.
- Universal = acceptance and inclusivity.
2. Structured vs. Organic Systems: A lot of ‘classroom’ learning happens outside of the program. Most projects are group assignments and I have learned that designers need structure. The biggest challenge is when there is no structure in place and the collective group must design a process. Another challenge has been not only managing the work load but managing the various people, styles, and skills in my groups. I have to leverage some structure for tactical execution but allow for an organic process for the sparks of creativity and magic. Negotiation is always key for a successful project and group dynamic.
3. In-Group vs. Out-group: In our leadership class, I learned that an ‘in-group’ leader has a special relationship with his peers and gives them access to resources and high levels of responsibility, with a focus on interpersonal relationships. An ‘out-group’ leader has his peers strive to work hard enough, interact with the leader formally, and focus on task-oriented responsibilities. Design leaders strike a balance between being an empathic in-group leader for long-term vision and an out-group leader for short-term practicality.