I had a chat with a mentee recently. Like me, she had learned the techniques and best practices of translating ideas into visual screens and interactions. But like me, she didn’t know much about what designers actually did in the workplace.
I recently had one of those mentor-mentee conversations with a young and aspiring UX designer (I was the mentor in this scenario). She told me about her recent experiences designing in college and immediately going through a UX design bootcamp. She finished up her story with,”And now I know I want to be a designer!”
The more we talked, the more I saw myself in her. But the more we talked, the more I realized that she (like me back then) didn’t realize there was a big difference between the practice of design and the work of design. Like me, she had learned the techniques and best practices of translating ideas into visual screens and interactions. But like me, she didn’t know much about what designers actually did in the workplace.
So here’s my 10 things I’ve learned about being a UX designer in the workplace.
- Great design is rarely about great aesthetics or stunning creativity. Great design in the workplace is about solving specific problems for specific users with as my clarity as possible.
- Designers rarely work with other designers. We spend our days with product owners, developers, users, stakeholders, project managers…and once in a while with other designers. Unless you work at a place with a strong design culture, you’ll spend most of your time with other kinds of people.
- The perfect design is always the enemy of the “good enough” design. It’s not efficient nor effective to spend your time tweaks pixels or microcopy until you’ve got it “just right”. It’s more important to generate ideas quickly and get feedback on then, even if they’re not completely thought through or completely refined.
- In many firms, the Agile sprint dominates the workflow. You have to figure out how to make your design products integrate with that process — not the other way around.
- The best advocates for your design choices…are the other people around you. You may know why you chose a layout or color palette but that information is most useful when your non-design colleagues can make that argument.
- Which means that design work is about communication. You have to be able to talk design as much as do design and you have to be able to translate design-talk into product-talk and business-talk and developer-speak and stakeholder-speech.
- When do you get to show your creativity and visual chops? On the edges, at the corners, in the details. You rarely get a blank slate to work with so you do your dazzling work and clever compositions as a complement to the main task at hand — solving problems for the business.
- Ah, the business. As creatives, we don’t think about cash revenue and ROI much — but we need to. You want your concept to become reality? Frame it in its contribution to the actual business. To the brand, to conversions, to reputation, to exposure.
- Finally, remember that you do have a special role in the company. You are a magician. Most people don’t have any idea how to create visuals so they see your work as wondrous and amazing. Keep it that way. Keep the aura around your special talent. But keep it in the background as you learn to work with people and communicate and understand.
I know that’s only nine things (even though I’m a designer, I’m still good with numbers), but that’s the list I wish I’d seen when I started down this UX designer road. Hope it helps!