How and why I became a designer.

“It looks like you have some talent in design, maybe you should think about pursuing that”, these words have wrung loud and clear in my head for years and I never did anything about it. They were spoken to me by my Dad, a very accomplished architect and general hard-ass, so I was very surprised to hear this encouragement. I was just sitting there doodling, practicing graffiti, and cutting stencils; things I would do on a nightly basis to relax and create. At this point in my life, I had a full time job as a search engine marketer. It was my first job out of college and it taught me a lot of things, it really was my entrance into the digital creative world I wanted to be in.

My Dad’s words sparked something in me, I felt it like electricity shooting through my body, it got me all excited, all aroused with possibility. It made me feel that I didn’t have to be a marketer my entire life I can follow my true calling and create.

The next few years I spent learning HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Wordpress, Photoshop, really anything I could get my hands on. I was desperate to catch up to the current web world. My previous experience, prior to my current studying, was building free website on geocities and angel fire. I remember I would do that for hours and I remembered that I liked doing it. There is something about digging in, having the basics and then creatively applying those basics to solve the problem you need to solve.

So, finally, I am where I consider to be caught up to speed, so I go after my first design job, I’ve now been there for 3 years. The first thing I realized was that I am not at all caught up to speed. My first design job taught me so much, so many nuances, so many new ways to think, and I really learned just how much I didn’t know. But there I was, in a new job, in a new career doing something I actually cared about. Now I surely must be caught up to speed, but you know what I discovered this time? You can never be caught up to speed, this industry changes so quickly, all the time. There is always something new, you cannot stay on top of everything but it is best to be aware of it.

My understanding of what design is has completely changed from what I used to think of it. My previous take on the subject was “Man, I wish I could just make something cool that looks good.” That has it’s own place, for sure, but skews more towards the art world for me now and probably has something to do with my early influence from graffiti. Graffiti, as we all know, is not necessarily good design but looks amazing, whereas design is helping to solve a problem, helping to get to the root of the issue and come up with the best possible way to solve it. I would actually define design as creative problem solving, it makes you put all of that practice creating into a more practical environment. Now, not only am I able to solve the problem but also do it in style, it has form and function.

I am so thankful that I am able to be a willing participant in this industry, it has some great people, ideas, and communities. I think that sometimes it struggles to find an identity though, especially with all of the questions being asked lately.

Are you a designer if you just design?

Are you a designer if you can also code?

Are you a better designer if you are also a business guru?

What are we?

What a designer is, is starting to become blurred and many of us are choosing to take on these other roles. Is it more right than being a design purist? Maybe, maybe not. But here is where I stand, if you want to learn to code, do it, if you want to understand the business side of it, do it, if you want to manage a team of designers and pass on your experience to them, do it. There is no right way to do it, no one way is more right than the other. As this industry marches forward lets do what we as designers do best and create our own path to the top and create the future of our industry however messy that may be, we will make sense of it.

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