Growing as a designer
To have meaningful work is a tremendous happiness
– Rita Mae Brown
I started my career as a graphic designer at an advertising agency. For a long time, I felt restless at work due to the perpetual client’s ‘requests’ (unreasonable demands) for changes to my designs. I looked for new opportunities elsewhere, switched between ‘several’ jobs within 6-months, and ended up at the same agency I left.
I left again within the 8 months I was back, this time for an opportunity to grow my startup. That job went smoothly, and I stayed for almost 2 years. But 3 months before 2018, it hit me again. I felt I needed to do something for myself within the remaining months of 2017. 3 days before the start of the UX design course at General Assembly, I quit my job to train as a UX designer.
I feel guilty being the ‘Millennial Job-hopper’. Yet, every job that I did, no matter how short they were (1 week, 1 month, 2 months), taught me valuable lessons to help me grow as a designer. I have learnt from many colleagues, teams, and business owners, and picked up many crafts, technical skills, and business acumen along the way.
What is Ikigai?
In February this year, I read an article, ‘Japanese ‘Ikigai’ Philosophy Could Be the Secret Formula to a Long and Happy Life’ that was when I was introduced to Ikigai.
Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [eye-ka-guy]) is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “a reason for being.” To put it in another way, Ikigai is what motivates you to get out of bed every morning. By practising Ikigai, it seeks a ‘lifestyle that balances the spiritual with the practical’.
This balance is found when what you are good at, and love doing, converge with the things the world needs and will pay for it.
Ikigai is the convergence of four principles:
- Your passion: I love doing it;
- Your mission: I can make the world better while doing it;
- Your vocation: I am good at it;
- Your profession: I can be paid to do it.
Discovering your own Ikigai is said to bring fulfilment and happiness.
We’re “working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
– Fight Club, Brad Pitt
In an article by the World Economic Forum, it was found that a growing number of people think their job is useless. It cited the 2015 study by YouGov, stating that up to 37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless.
Despite having a reputable job and impressive salaries, many successful professionals still go home feeling that their work serves no purpose. It is as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs for the sake of keeping everyone working.
UX Design is my Ikigai
Since making the switch to UX Design, I have found my Ikigai in UX Design. One one hand, I found meaning in my current work as a UX designer. On the other, I enjoy a better lifestyle that came along with money.
Passion: I love doing it
While I continue to pursue design, I also get to know why my designs help users in performing the tasks that need to do. The design is no longer entirely based on their subjective feedback but is grounded in qualitative research. I get to speak to people and talk about the problems they face, or the usability of my products. I develop an empathy for them and feel a sense of reward in doing what I do.
Mission: I can make the world better while doing it
As companies and countries (Singapore’s Smart Nation) pursue ‘digital transformation’, UX, UI, product, and service designers are in greater demand. Designers are leading the design-led innovation process and coming out with creative and innovative solutions in pushing companies forward.
As a result, companies and organisations are reaching out to their customers and enhancing both their digital or physical services.
Vocation: I am good at it
It’s not for me to judge. I believe I am doing my best as a designer and will continue to hone my craft in design and in related areas. At this moment, I am advocating spending an hour or more each day for self-learning.
Profession: I can be paid to do it
I found greater work-life balance in my current job that also pays better. According to PayScale, the average salary for a graphic designer in the US is $42,000, compared to the $72,000 a UX designer receives!
Discovering your Ikigai
Author Dan Buettner, suggests making three lists: your values, things you like to do, and things you are good at doing. The cross-section of the three lists is your Ikigai.
The start of my career was all trial-and-error, but it has helped me to grow as a designer. Grab every opportunity that is worth pursuing and you’ll discover your Ikigai along the way.