Ten years in design, what have I learned

It’s been more than ten years since I started my professional career as a designer. While realizing this, few thoughts arose. First “damn I’m getting old” and second “I’ve been lucky because I had the opportunity to try and work on with wide variety of things”.

Ten years in design is a real milestone for me. Looking back over the past 10 years. What kind of journey has it been for me and what I have learned. My projects have varied, everything from visual design to service design and from coding (tried it and sucked at it) to design sales. And more importantly I’ve worked with a number of people who have contributed to my professional development and skills.

I have done some spectacular stuff and something I wouldn’t admit was done by me. I wanted to give myself some time to ponder what have I done during these years and what have I learned? What kind of tips would I give ten year younger version of me? That young self-confident guy really needed some of these advices.

Embrace collaboration

You need others to do your best and learn new skills and improve your practise. The value of working with various teams with different type of experts is incredibly beneficial. It tests your social and articulation skills when you need to share and pitch ideas. Working in various teams forces you to test new working methods and gives perspective to your work. 

Collaboration opens doors to multidisciplinary design, which is in my book perfect approach to solve complex problems.

Get things done

Done is better than perfect. People don’t buy ideas, they buy actions and results. 

Finish what you have started. Of course with customer projects but you should also keep the same attitude with your personal projects, studies or other goals, big or small.

Fight against anxiety, distractions and passion to start something new when you haven’t finished previous task is hard. Be sure that you can finish what you have started and get familiar where are your limits in multitasking.

Take it easy

Stress can be a killer. Deadlines, learning new skills and catching up with the new trends all adds stress to your life. You might find yourself obligated to be concerned all these various things. It won’t take much to get overwhelmed.

Being a designer is one of the most exciting jobs in the world, but it’s crucial that you can keep your cool and avoid building a burden you can’t handle.

Loosen up and take some time for yourself. Even a small break from all the hassle will give perspective to your work and everyday life.

Be kind

This last one may sound simple but has to be the hardest thing to learn.

In the end your skills and knowledge are useless if you don’t get along with others. Nobody likes assholes, nobody wants to work with assholes and most of the people don’t do business with assholes.

You should give time to develop your empathy skills. Give your full attention to others, understand their entire message what they are communicating and how they react to your actions. Listening to others is a nice way to start developing a nicer version of yourself.

And after all, being kind will make also you happy!

How becoming a father has affected me as a designer

When I wrote this I have been enjoying being a father for over a half a year. Going from being non-parent to parent has to be the greatest identity change I have gone through. 

My patience has been tested during sleepless nights. I have figured out ways to recognize different kinds of cries from hunger to boredom. The value of alone time has grown exponentially. There is a fresh set of skills on my hand and my mind has experienced an emotional roller coaster. Parenthood touched me as a whole and this new stage of my life has also made significant impact to me as a designer.

So, I’m a dad now. In what way has it affected me as a designer? The list could be endless, but I wanted to summarize this to two most important ones.

Deeper understanding of others

I found that in most cases good design is based on the insight of the people who you are designing for. What are their motives and what are their values. What makes them happy and what keeps them awake at night.  

In my projects I had used user personas of parents. I have examined several economic research dealing with families buying behaviors and I’ve read numerous feedback from moms and dads. Loads of facts and stats relating to parents and families gave me some insight. Still I had no idea what it feels like to be concerned about the health of your child or how powerful emotions can be raised just by smile from cute bubbly face.

Only through my individual experiences I now understand what are the true reasons behind parent’s actions and motives. Right now I possess basic experiences. There are still unexpected moments to happen and things to learn but now I can say “Yes, I know what you are talking about”.

Deeper understanding of myself

You don’t know your limits. Not until you push yourself to them. Becoming a parent gives you an excellent change to find these limits if you have been missing a reason to do so.

While finding your limits might be great, I found even more reward in finding my own life values and motivation. Fatherhood has made me ponder my personal values. How should I spend my days and what kind of impact I want to give through my work. 

I mentioned before that good design is based on knowledge about its users. When I look at the big picture and fundamentals of design, it is clear that design with greats impact needs to be based on a genuine purpose. Why should anyone care about your product or service? Defining purpose and finding ways to express it is hard work. But starting this task becomes much easier if you have at least a faint idea of your personal views and goals. 

I have been victim of forced introspection by my six month old baby. Expanding my knowledge of my own thoughts, beliefs and emotional patterns has allowed me to better understand others.

Never before did I have so little free time and so much passion for inner contemplation. When I was preparing myself for being a father I could only wait for the first one.