How to sell designs to your team with my 3-step "bridge-building" technique

If you've been working in this field for any period of time, you've had to sell your ideas.

Those ideas come in many flavors:

  • Designs
  • Processes
  • Workshops
  • Research

But over 13 years, one of the most common sales I've had to make is the sale of the redesign.

It's also a hard sell and for good reason.

Redesigns have a lot of hidden costs:

  1. Support must update product images and videos in their customer knowledge-base
  2. Marketing must update the media used in their current campaigns
  3. Engineering must create new UI components and a framework for deciding on when to use new vs. old components

Redesigns aren't always the right answer. But when they are, they're easy to dismiss because the path forward can be hard to see.

I'm going to show you how "building a bridge" can help you sell your redesigns - and any big idea - to your team.

How to sell a Big Idea:

  1. Introduce the North Star
  2. Build a bridge to the North Star
  3. Prioritize each effort with the team

Or put another away: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Take this dashboard redesign for example.

If you were to introduce the New Design (on the right) to a room of stakeholders and lead contributors, the questions surrounding the cost of work would mount quickly.

Let's look at how we can make this redesign a bit more digestible with my bridge-building technique.

1. Introduce the North Star

The Goal: Rip off the band-aid. Your product has problems, and you have solutions - and it's going to require some work. But before you break it down, use this moment to woo and awe your team with some cool ideas. This is what the product could be and this the optimal path. We call this the "North Star". We may not achieve this result in the near-term, but this is the direction we want to be heading.

2. Build a bridge to the North Star

The Goal: It won't take long for the sticker-shock of your big ideas to set in. It's time to deconstruct your North Star into bite-sized wins. Make this thing feel achievable the same way big annual expenses are broken into monthly payments. The key takeaway here should not to show up to your presentation with one big idea, but to bring with you a set of artboards that demonstrate how the big idea fits into an incremental roadmap.

2.1 Start by showing the existing design

2.2 Introduce one new component from the redesign

2.3 Show the next component - bonus points if you can group these by initiatives your team is already planning, like a new "global search" for your product.

2.4 By now, the theme should become clear to your team: you're building a visual bridge to a better future.

2.5 Bring it all together with the final pieces. This is the "aha!" moment, where suddenly that sticker shock fades away and a path toward that cool new idea becomes feasible.

3. Prioritize each effort with the team

The Goal: You show them the North Star, you painted a possible path forward, and now it's time to discuss the actual logistics. To be clear, your proposed path forward is not meant to be the fight you're trying to win. The North Star is the objective, and the bridge is just meant to visualize how this big idea isn't so spooky. Ask your team how they might prioritize this initiative and instead of arguing against the North Star, the conversation will shift to discussing how to slice it up.

I hope this helps you push your teams to realize better design ideas. It's helped me tremendously.

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