When I started working as a UX/UI designer, I was overwhelmed by all the trendy terms and frameworks. At some point, I even remember feeling I’d never be able to catch up. In fact, it was after speaking to a friend of mine about this, that he put me in contact with my current bosses and I got my job position at Indicius.
Nowadays, I’m not feeling so unsure anymore. Even though there’s always some new technique to incorporate or a new famous designer that everyone’s talking about, I no longer fear missing out on any of that. As time went by, I learned that it’s always better to remain calm and only incorporate those ideas if I analyze them and I decide that it’ll be beneficial for the project I’m working on at the moment. I understand that our field is constantly evolving and that’s a great thing, but we don’t necessarily have to use the latest technique in order to be good designers. We only have to learn to focus on what’s important.
Endless discussions about Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD, and the way in which we prototype our ideas. Long lists about the pros and cons of Notion, Trello, or Asana, containing tips for each of these. Design trends as flat, neumorphism, glassmorphism, or minimalism. Even our job titles: UX/UI Designer, Product Designer, Interaction Designer, Creative Strategist, Digital Strategist, etc. There are names for everything you can imagine. It’s understandable for someone to get lost.
For instance, when I was studying to become a UX designer, I learned about several ways to illustrate the Design Thinking process: Ideo’s, Google’s, Stanford’s, and so on. Because of this, I came to believe that I was expected to know the differences between all of these graphics. The truth is that I only needed to understand the reason why Design Thinking is such a powerful tool for complex problem-solving.
My point is… I understand the power new names can have over an audience. We all want to be cool, don’t we? And names can help with that. They usually sound appealing and promising. Yet, even though experts may be able to distinguish the important from the irrelevant, this is not always true for someone who doesn’t have any experience in the field.
At first, I looked at methodologies as if they were baking recipes: I followed every step of the process without stopping to ask myself what it was that I was doing. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring very good results because I wasn’t paying attention to the specific requirements of each one of my projects.
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” — Charles Kettering
There’s no denying that the best way to address a problem is by using methodologies that have proven to be effective. But we should keep in mind that before choosing any of these, we have to dedicate some quality time to dig into the issue and really comprehend what needs to be solved. In order to do this, you must choose analysis over trend. Be critical about everything you see: rely on your knowledge and ask yourself what needs to be done, what’s the client’s and the user’s objectives in your specific task.
Take into consideration the project process, its specific scope, and the time and resources available to us in each situation. That’s the first step in Indicius’s projects: all of our services start with a phase of discovery and research where we try to understand who the client is and who their users are. Then, we tailor the tools for the task at hand. Thanks to this way of working in the agency, I’ve come to believe that being aware of all of these details is what makes a good designer, rather than the knowledge of all the existing trends.
After all, clients don’t really care about all of these fancy names that drive us crazy. They don’t even know these names exist — they actually hire us because design is a powerful tool that can add great value to their businesses. To help them achieve this, it’s important that we put our egos away and focus on the client’s needs instead of spending time thinking about our next case study and what the design community will have to say.
I’ve had several conversations about this with a coworker and we realized that whenever we are having conversations regarding methodologies, the clients are not interested in knowing what the process will be like, but rather in the solution we will give them. We need to put the design in a business context, as my colleague Salvador said:
Most of the time, when we’re offering a design service, we do so in a business environment. Therefore, we need to understand the way that companies monitor and measure their health to be able to speak the same language.
We tend to say that empathy is our most important value, but sometimes we find ourselves looking at our clients as if they were some kind of monsters who are tirelessly trying to destroy every piece of work we do. We should never forget, though, that our clients are a necessary part of the team and their point of view is very important: we know about design, but they know about the subject. If we want to satisfy their needs, we’ll have to analyze the different options to identify the process that best works for them.
So, if you’re new in the field: you have to know that many of us have already been in your shoes. As I said in the beginning, when I started working here I also felt lost and confused as a consequence of all these new terms, which seem to talk about the same thing over and over again. You’ll get used to it. What you do have to do is to keep on learning and working hard: you’ll incorporate the tools by using them, not by memorizing their names.
In my case, I learned to stay focused with the help of my partners at the agency, people I respect and admire. The fact we have our company values so well-defined helped me understand what’s important to do, but what I’m most thankful for are the many opportunities that I was given to learn. One of the experiences I’ll always remember is this Design Sprint for a health insurance provider, which made me understand the framework not as something static, but rather as a tool for a deeper understanding of a complex problem.
To close, I encourage you to be critical not only about your designs but also about your processes: in order to grow as designers, we must work every day and reflect on what we’re doing.
What’s your design process? How do you adapt the frameworks to your specific projects? I’d love to hear what other colleagues have to say.
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