Questions about work don’t usually trip me up. Being a UX Designer at a big retailer has come with all kinds of questions. From people asking me what in-store department I work in, to all the variations of “what is UX” — when I sense a career question coming, I have an arsenal of answers that clearly define who I work for, what I do, and adaptable answers to the never-ending UX questions.
But a couple of weeks ago, I got this question:
What makes you get out of bed every morning and do this work? What is exciting about design to you?
Great. I’ve been asked this before. I immediately went to talking about my job and projects — “I love the challenges of a retail space, it’s a fun environment, I fall in love with problems, I love making beautiful solutions, I’ve done x, y, z for a, b, c…” blah blah blah.
After reading my first answer, the person who asked me this question added this:
Don’t mention school or work. ‘Just Abbie.’ Why in your life is design exciting? Why do you care about this stuff?
I paused… re-read the question a few times. Why is this throwing me off? I took a minute and read it really carefully. Then I realized,
I’ve never answered a question like this before.
I am good at taking the question “why I like design” and spinning it too “well here’s my career” or even “and this is why you should choose me for ____”, but I’ve never been asked to answer this question without the intention of spinning it for someone else.
After 4 years of university and almost two years working professionally, no one has ever asked why Abbie cares about design and expected an answer that’s only about Abbie. I’ve never put that answer into words before.
It (thankfully) didn’t come to an existential crisis, but I was taken aback.
I didn’t know what to say. I knew I loved design, but I’ve never taken the time to write down why. I began to think about it and scratched out different answers, coming up with and scrapping ideas like “I love the user, I like designing screens, I design delightful solutions to big problems…”, all these answers were valid, but didn’t really get to the heart of why I liked design. I kept thinking about how much time I was spending trying to answer this question … it shouldn’t be that hard, I have to know why I like design…. Why do I like design?!
Finally, I decided to think back to when I was a kid. What did I do that ultimately made me choose the design path?
That’s where I got it.
There were things I gravitated towards as a kid that ultimately grew my love for design, and why I now call myself a UX & Product Designer.
Once I thought about the question in this light, the constraint I previously thought was too hard to deal with became liberating. The answer didn’t require phrases like “I’ve worked in cross functional teams”, “I’m organized and determined”, “I know Sketch, Illustrator, and a lot of Adobe programs” — all phrases that are true and good, but in this case, I could talk about anything I wanted.
So before I share my answer, I want to challenge anyone who, like me, had never written down an answer to this question:
What gets you excited about what you do? Don’t focus on a company or school program — just write down an answer that’s about you.
Here’s my answer (edited even after I sent it off to the person who asked me):
I’ve always been a people pleaser. Even in situations where I didn’t have to please anyone, with no repercussions whatsoever, I like making people happy. For example, in Roller Coaster Tycoon (a game where you build theme parks and customers come to them), I was the one making parks with the right amount of everything the customers needed, and building rides with the right amount of thrill so people would like them. There was ample opportunity in this game to put people anywhere I pleased —there was a tweezer tool that allowed you to literally pick up customers and put them on the ride you built, tools to delete the exits and dig holes so they couldn’t leave… but I always felt bad for them if I did that. I liked seeing little smiley faces when they enjoyed my park.
Similarly, the computer has always been something I gravitate towards — I was playing Sesame Street computer games before I could walk. When I was in grade 6 I made my computer regularly lag out because I had every key on my keyboard programmed to a cool emoticon on MSN Messenger. I loved the blinking, cool looking letters that went beyond Arial. In high school, I would edit photos of my friends into different environments, like when I edited two of my friends into a realistic looking James Bond poster. I had so much fun seeing if I could surprise people with my edited photos.
So when I discovered user experience design in first year university, it was the first time I could categorize a thing I’ve been doing since I was kid — making people happy through digital experiences. I finally found something that combines two prominent traits about myself into one career that I knew I would love to do. Since then, I’ve called myself a UX & Product Designer.
TL;DR — I like making people happy, and I do that best through digital experiences.
What’s your answer to this question? It’s daunting at first, but felt great once I had an answer. I’ll probably edit it more as my career continues to develop!
PS. This is the poster I was talking about.
PPS. Thank you to the person who asked me this question. As you can see, it caught me off guard, but I really like that I have an answer for it now :)