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4 "Blacklist" Principles for Successful Web Design Projects

Posted on 1.07.2015

By Brent Delperdang, Web Talent Marketing


On the hit show The Blacklist, the character Raymond (Red) Reddington is a man of relationships, projects and resources. His leadership style and – believe it or not – principles, draw similarities with that of managing and producing great websites. If Red made websites, how would he apply his principles and leadership style?

In this article we uncover 4 key principles that Red might use on your next website development project.

1) Relationships are more important than the project at hand.

“Just out of curiosity, what number am I on your speed dial?” - (Red)

Wait, what? Isn’t our job to just “get it done” and make sure the quality is impeccable? Yes of course, but we’re talking about so much more here. We’re talking about priorities. We’re talking about people.

Nearly every project Red encounters, starts with people. Whenever he meets with a resource or client, he puts their interests first by reminiscing about a past experience or commenting on something about that person. He has a knack for getting people to like him and building relationships. He focuses on the person first, then gets down to business.

You (and Red) could blow through projects to “get things done”, but you’ll miss out. You’ll miss the long-term relationships that bring more business. And you’ll certainly miss out on calling in favors with those you could have built relationships with.

2) Putting yourself in harm's way may actually get you closer to the truth.

On The Blacklist, Red puts himself in situations that very few people on earth would care to find themselves in. He lives a dangerous life and puts himself in harm's way to get one thing: information.

What would we consider as “harm's way” when it comes to building websites? In this case, “harm's way” means taking risks and being vulnerable.

Take risks with your ideas and open those ideas to your colleagues and clients. This may make you feel vulnerable, but you will uncover more “truth” and ideas from your client. For example, presenting multiple ideas to a client about design and copy may trigger things your client forgot or neglected to communicate. In some cases, these things can be critical to the success of your website project.

3) Use a colorful imagination of contingencies rather than black and white steps to the finish line.

“You know the problem with drawing lines in the sand? With a breath of air, they disappear.” - (Red)

Red has a colorful imagination. He plans in advance and in many cases predicts the actions of others. These are traits of great leaders.

For example, Red predicts that many of his actions have consequences. Because of this, he predicts how his adversaries will react to his actions, then prepares a counteractive measure. Of course, his predictions are always right and his contingencies are always effective… thus the “bad guys” fail and Red continues to mark people off The Blacklist.

In a Web design project, we can prepare black and white steps that lead us to launch. In an ideal environment, this plan would be effective. In many cases, one plan is not enough. 

As designers and developers we are encouraged to think of backup plans and different ways of producing an objective. It is helpful to remind ourselves to remove our blinders and to be sensitive to the reactions of our clients and customers. This sensitivity will produce effective contingency plans for user-friendly designs and goal-driven websites.

4) Don’t think like the FBI.

Raymond Reddington repeatedly tells his FBI friend, Elizabeth Keen, to stop thinking like the FBI. The criminals they are after are more clever and more divisive than the average crime suspect. They will never find their suspect if they consult standard FBI procedures. The only way to catch their criminals is to think exactly like criminals.

We could title this section, “Don’t think like your client.” Instead of thinking about what your client might like or be happy with, think about what your client’s customer wants. The only way to “catch” your customer is to think like them. Just like the criminals on The Blacklist, we need to find out what they really want.

Diving into potential customer minds is no easy task. It’s literally impossible, but we can get close, or at least be in their mindset. Customers want to find solutions to their problems. They don’t care about the features. They care about the benefits! So stop running around to persuade your customers with features. Figure out the customer’s needs and the customers will come directly to you.

“All this running around, really. I'm so relieved when the people I'm chasing... come to me.” - (Red)

Apply these principles for “Good”

Lets face it, Raymond Reddington isn’t the best role model. My optimism sees the positive characteristics from this troubled character and reminds us how to use these admirable traits to do good for our clients, our customers and our website development projects.


Brent Delperdang is the Creative Manager at Web Talent Marketing where he designs and manages conversion optimized websites for ecommerce, lead generation and service-based companies.

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