As the co-founder of DESIGNATION, I have talked to a lot of aspirational designers. At last count, in the 3+ years we’ve been around, I have personally interviewed about 2000 candidates for the program. And in that time, I’ve identified some distinct patterns about the types of people that are well-suited to a career in UX or UI design. If this is at all a career path you’ve been considering, check out this list to see if you have these characteristics:
1. You are equal parts creative and technical
This is probably the biggest and most important quality of a successful designer. I find a lot of people think design is purely creative, that it’s free-form and unstructured. But the reality is, nothing could be further from the truth.
Although there are certainly aspects of the job that are highly creative and require a lot of blue sky ideation and pondering the “What ifs…?”, that all happens within a fairly tightly constrained and analytical process.
Creativity is great. But creativity without process is like setting sail without a destination in mind. Sure you might make it to port, but you’re a lot more likely to just wander around lost at sea.
Process is what harnesses creativity and allows it to produce something useful and valuable. And the design process can at times be quite methodical.
2. You thrive in a collaborative environment
As a designer, almost everything you do, every project you touch, every product you build, will be done in collaboration with a team. There are a couple of reasons for this:
First: good, old-fashioned efficiencies of division of labor. Building sophisticated digital products is complicated work, and we’re a lot more efficient if as a team we each take a small piece, and then put it together in the end, Voltron-style.
But second, and this is the more subtle and less obvious part, is that there’s a magical gestalt that takes place when you put two designers together in a room. There’s a synergy that makes their output greater than the sum of their individual ideas. They bounce off each other, feed on each other’s energy, and push the work further and faster than either one could have done on their own. Just as developers spend time reviewing their colleagues’ code, UX/UI Designers should expect constructive design review from their teammates.
3. You work well under deadlines
This one may not be unique to design, but it is definitely true of it. In design, time is almost always a factor. There are a number of reasons why your project might be under a time crunch:
Your company may have committed to a launch date; you might have limited access to users or subject matter experts to interview; or you might just have more pressing projects in the pipeline that are going to require your whole attention next week, so this current sprint really needs to get out the door by Friday.
Whatever the reason, just like most creative jobs that exist within a business environment, you’re almost always going to have deadlines to hit.
And, as a rule of thumb, the more experience you have, the faster you’re expected to work, which helps keep you on your toes and the work interesting, no matter where you are in your career.
4. You can focus on the big picture without losing sight of the little details
It was mentioned earlier, but building sophisticated software is really, really hard. And rare is the designer who at some point has not been guilty of occasionally missing the forest for the trees. That is to say, it’s really easy to get so wrapped up in the minutia of a particular feature, flow or product attribute that you lose sight of the larger objective.
Easy to do, but important to overcome. Designers need to have both the vision to understand what the project is really about, as well as the ability to get their hands dirty finessing the details.
It’s often said (and I agree) that the last 10% of a project takes 90% of the work. That’s because once the larger objective has been set, figuring out how to accomplish that task effectively and efficiently is when the real work begins.
5. You get excited to work with new technology
It’s both a blessing and a curse: when you work in tech, there’s a new toy, a new program, a new technique, a new something that comes out practically every week. So you always have to stay current and keep your skills sharp.
Having said that, true design is done by people, not by software. The tech and tools we use is just the way design is expressed, but it’s not where the real work happens.
That’s because design is an innate human characteristic. Since the dawn of time, we have fashioned chisels out of rocks and sticks, drawn pictures of our prey on cave walls, and actively shaped the world around us to our meet needs.
Design is an act of purposeful creation. It’s something we have always done, and always will do.
So although the tools of the trade may change weekly, once a designer, always a designer. The process of talking to people, asking them what they want or need, and building something to accomplish that goal will always be part of the business world. And your skills as a designer to do that will always be in demand.
So What Now?
Does any of that sound like you? If so, you may be ready for the next steps towards a career in design.
Check out Course Report's Ultimate Guide to UX/UI Design Bootcamps, research UX/UI schools, and learn more about DESIGNATION by reading reviews or on their website at designation.io. You can reach out to Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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