Talk Design With Non-Designers

Being a designer will require you to do much more than push pixels and focus on the visuals.

Being a designer will require you to do much more than push pixels and focus on the visuals. One of the most important aspects of a creative career will be your ability to talk design, more specifically, the ability to talk design with non-designers.

There are many aspects to what makes a designer an excellent communicator. I'll be explicitly covering how the language we use impacts our conversations.

In the medical world, this is referred to as bedside manner. We all can relate to why the communication between doctor and patient is so important.

Doctor (A) and patient

Doctor (B) and patient

The example above illustrates how language impacted the overall success of the conversation. By simplifying his language, Doctor (B) is able to communicate with his patient effectively. While Doctor (A) delivers the same information, he fails to get the point across with his patient.

Can this be applied in design? 

The short answer is yes! Being a doctor and a designer is different, but the concept is essentially the same, and the results will be equally compelling. 

For example, if I’m going to speak with a web developer about a project, I can safely assume he/or she will have the background to talk at a technically higher level.

Designer and Developer

Alternatively, if I’m going to speak in a cross-functional meeting, I'll need to take into consideration that several departments will be attending, and not everyone has a design background. I will change my language so that it’s more understandable for the larger group.

Designer in cross-functional meeting

Having said that, articulating design will take time and experience to build on. Understanding its importance is the first step towards building upon these skills. The second step is taking any opportunity to talk design. It may sound cheesy, but the saying is true 'practice makes perfect.' If you want to get proficient at something, you're going to have to practice and persist. Companies will value candidates who can do this well.

Key Takeaways

  • Be aware of who you're speaking with, I.e., What's their background? Are my words going to help, or are they going to cause more confusion?
  • Listen to the questions you get from your audience. It’s a good indicator of whether the language you're using is the right language. Write it down so you can use it as a reference later.


While researching this article, I came across a few fascinating articles covering similar topics. All are worth reading.

'Why design isms are a problem' by Josh Munn

Design jargons: an interview with Sagi Shrieber, from Hacking UI by Fabricio Teixeira

Cutting the jargon out of your creative work by Invision