As a designer—someone who obsessively reads, thinks, and sweats about thoughtful, innovative designs—I’ve come to a realization: designing is the least important part of my job. Because, at heart, I’m not a designer. I’m a problem-solver who’s obsessed with building cool stuff. Ideally, cool stuff that solves more problems for other people.
The problem with viewing yourself “as a designer”—it’s too easy to separate yourself from the rest of the project team. It’s too easy to start viewing the all-sacred process as immovable. It’s too easy to start dividing at project work up into what’s your job and what’s not.
”The truth is simple and this: everything is your job.
The truth is simple and this: everything is your job. Because, despite your experience, despite your portfolio, despite what you’ll be grilled on in your interview, you’re not hired to design—you’re hired to make successful things. And if you care about what you do, it means you’ll be doing all sorts of crazy tasks that are far, far away from what you studied.
I don’t want to diminish the importance of building up your skillsets—by all means, you can and should work to hone your craft. Go deep and make pretty things in your spare time if it fulfills you, creatively. I think, however, that we’ve reached the point in our industry where it’s detrimental to continue preaching “design above all things,” because most successful businesses have caught on. Yes, there’s always improvement to do around process, research, and evangelism of great design, but it’s time to fully throw yourself into the work of building successful things.
Because our obsession should never be on creating the best possible design, but creating the best possible project, product or outcome.
If that makes it sound like I’m suggesting a wide range of skills versus deep, that’s not necessarily the case. Rather, I’m saying you should throw yourself fully into each project, and give it your all. It means looking beyond the confines of Sketch and Invision. It means attacking each day by asking yourself, “What can I do to make this project more successful?” Often this will involve design, or research, or strategy! Often it won’t and that’s ok, too.
Because when your focus is on creating successful things, not designing pretty screens, you’ll find yourself side-by-side with PMs, helping scope out release schedules. You’ll find yourself eating pizza while cranking out good-enough CSS for that last minute deadline. You’ll find yourself building deeper and better relationships with your coworkers while picking up far more about business, strategy, and development than ever before. You’ll become more versatile, you’ll start looking at problems in different ways, and arriving at new conclusions. You’ll become more invested in your company, your team, and your products.
Your design chops got you in the door—but the ones who stay, advance, and are sought after, are the people who put the project first. Roll up your sleeves, dive into spreadsheets and planning sessions, figure out react. Get your hands dirty. Stop designing, start producing.