What it truly means to be a great designer.

What it truly means to be a great designer.

Before we even go into pixels, layers and interactions, what is most important?

Often when we see, hear and chat with other designers about various topics, the thing that commonly comes up is talking about designers that we personally admire and look up to.

When we were students, we would look up to professional designers working in each of our dream companies, their insanely well curated portfolio websites that were saved as bookmarks, rad visual and interaction designs that they pulled off… and through many more various channels.

When we are now professional designers, each of us might have much more definitive and subjective/personal opinions about what we might consider, a great designer based on our experiences so far.

Some might argue that a great designer is the one who is able to clearly articulate the problem he/she is trying to solve and addressing those pain points well.

Some might argue that a great designer is the one who can produce pixel-perfect, attractive-looking UI and fancy interactions skills within a short amount of time.

Some might argue that a great designer is the one who work well (efficiently) with engineers, researchers, content strategist, project managers and the rest of the team members to meet deadlines while continuing to communicate throughout.

Some might argue that a great designer is the one who not only work well at his/her job at a company but also, work on kick-ass side projects that are meaningful and creative.

Some might argue that a great designer is the one who are constantly trying to learn new tools or concepts and try out new things as experiments.

All of those might be great answers too.

But really, what does it truly mean to be a great designer?

Hmm… 🤔

Based on numerous conversations exchanged with my mentors, mentees and throughout my personal journey, I came to a conclusion that a great designer is the one that can answer the question “why” for the designs that he/she produced at every stage of the design process. For example, a designer who can elaborate his/her design decisions well inside the meeting instead of talking just about the visual or the interaction parts of the design.

Probably, we all know that answering the “why” questions is super important. However, when it comes to design crits and feedback sessions, they are actually the toughest questions to answer with the good, confident answers. In many cases, the questions that other designers or teammates ask start with a word, “why?” which can lead to different series of questions and exploration suggestions as well which are great if you should explore them but not as useful when it feels (and seems) like you need to make more design intentional and thoughtful.

Furthermore, when you work for companies that moves super fast, it’s often really hard to validate all the questions that we have through research and therefore, have to make fair assumptions before we even exploring the design concepts and directions. Then, you might not have the appropriate answer except that you are trying to quickly test out your options, collect data and iterate from there while still, having to think about the risks and ways of falling back.

But going back to that earlier statement about what it means to be a great designer, although you can’t be perfect at explaining “why” question, I personally think that there is value in keeping that mindset as you are designing a product.

It’s extremely easy for us, designers to skip the tedious stage of writing out problem statements for each projects and documenting throughout the stages of the designs so that we can quickly hop on Sketch and prototyping tools to let out our ideas. However, that’s when things go out of control in that we forget about the users, misinterpret data, neglect the risks and focus on pixels and cool interactions.

Therefore, in order to work towards being a great designer, I think it’s important to always that in mind. Also, regardless of who’s inside and outside the room, whether they are newbies or experienced designers, when they ask questions, you should be able to answer their questions in a meaningful way without making up things on the spot.

Although you may not be perfect at explaining all the questions like I mentioned before, expecting what questions are going to be raised and being aware of that as well as presenting more clearly would be some of the takeaways from it too.

Don’t be unintentional about your designs. Always work towards your goal, your user’s goals and if you’re unsure, admit that you are unsure and then look for answers.

This article originally appeared on Muzli

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