No, I’m not referring to a police record :-) Of course, I mean designing with a set of core principles that define your philosophy, approach, and vision as a designer. What do you believe in? What do you fight for and what will you simply not compromise on when the temperature rises during cross-dusciplinary debates? What are your convictions that you personally uphold and defend, in any job or client situation? According a recent post by Dan Saffer of Kicker Studio, one of the qualities that make a great designer is uncompromising on process, which I take to mean your approach, methods, and beliefs.

When in debates with engineers and PMs over features and edge cases, how do you know what to fight back on, versus humbly acknowledging the changes? What ground do you stand upon? A set of bureaucratic and un-updated UI guidelines? What your VP declares? Ultimately, how do you deal with the ambiguity of what makes a “good” or “right” design?

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said recently at a our annual Design Summit, “Designers should have an opinion at the table and stand up for it. Defend it. Coach us on how to design the product properly.” Hmm! Clearly an opening and desire to have designers fight for what is appropriate and necessary, not simply do what is merely convenient.

In a recent candid interview with former Apple CEO John Sculley, the interviewer captured Steve Jobs’ “methodology” which involves a set of core principles that define, unilaterally and strongly, the “Design Way at Apple”:

* Start with the user’s experience 
* Focus on just a few things
* Look at the whole system
* Never compromise
* Benchmark yourself against artisans, not commodities

A nice set! What are my convictions? Here’s a short list:

– Vision drives strategy, not a project plan.
– Users don’t have the answers. Designers must smartly envision.
– There is no perfect design, yet strive for excellence.
– Focus on humanist values first, then technical features.
– Consider the silhouette and details of the product / service experience.
– Aesthetics matter. Period.

Convictions set you apart from the crowd, builds respect, and commands attention among those used to polite acquiescence in middle-managed contexts. Convictions about what and how to design (given your outlook and posture) defines your authority as a leader creating great products. Otherwise, you risk the danger of being used badly to slap on lipstick or not taken seriously for your ideas and potential. Designing with conviction, obviously, takes courage and passion and commitment. And…a strong dose of “belief” in doing the right thing per your evolved sense of judgment and expertise. To design is to believe and to believe is to see with uncompromising clarity. It all comes back to your purpose for why you design.