An essay about beginners expectations and surface thinking

I became a designer straight ahead after my design studies in Sweden. I was working on concepts, products or new business development most of the time. I did one job switch and this is an honest reflection about the biggest fuckup I have made during the first full-time year in business.

One year ago, I studied the last course of my Interaction design studies in Sweden. I knew that in few weeks I am going to move to full practice but I did not know what exactly I am heading to. I do not know this even now. Anyway, I started fishing without really knowing which kind of fish I want to catch.

I travelled back to the Czech rep. because I was going to start working as UX designer in U+. After few weeks, I did not feel comfortable because I wasn’t able to perform proper collaborative and user-centric work. This was the pain in the ass because I was trained to be a member of a group where everything stays on collaboration. I was so weak in this setup and I needed change.

Jacob from the 2FRESH agency wrested me out of the previous place. When I visited 2FRESH for the first time, I was sure that this is the right place. You know that feeling in your stomach when you feel that things are just right. I was supposed to become HCD designer at 2FRESH after several meetings. I was coming with certain mindset how I should perform and approach my everyday work. This mindset was formed from books and previous studies. However, I had huge respect for other people there. They must know all these things better than me, they are right, they are 2FRESH — one of the best Human-centred design places in the Czech rep.

I started working on a product that is a part of the venture initiative in 2FRESH. I joined a newly built startup team that was few months after the launch of their very first beta. As well, after the first round of investment and without really seeing the CEO and other team members during the hiring process. I did not know anything about the online retail grocery domain. My domain knowledge was empty as a clean sheet of paper. This was perfect because I had a children’s mind.

The initial request sounded simple.

Make it more usable and nicer as soon as possible. It is just a few pages and we are a startup. Then we are going to do it properly.

I forgot to ask — why, why, why, why, why that time. Why we need to make it nicer. Where is the research, where are the prototypes, where is the value proposition canvas, etc. I was new and I felt that these guys must know because they have more experience than me. I should probably follow them. I dropped all my knowledge and all these things I was hired for because I had certain expectations. I became a consumer that accepts commands without really considering if they make a deeper sense. Honestly, I felt that these things don’t make sense but I didn’t have guts to be strong enough and say stop guys I can't work without performing this, this and this.

I cheated with research, ideation, prototyping, validation — all those things that I learned in Sweden.

We thought that this is going to take few weeks. It is just a few pages… We started working without analysis and deep consideration what is in front of us. Yes and we set a deadline. How do you think that this could end up? We missed several deadlines, worked for few months instead of weeks, the product didn’t meet actual users needs, we felt bad our work, the team had broken relationships and we lost credibility.

A good thing is that we recognised this quite soon. It is that kind of strong experience that you do not want to experience it again. However, our brain forgets these bad moments and we remember just the nice ones. You have to have someone in your team that is not scared say stop when something starts to feel wrong. This could be me at the very beginning. I could stop all that but I simply didn’t have guts to stop the death sprint and take us out of running in the circle.

Personally, I learned that having a theory in a mind without an ability to place it into the practice is useless. It is about a personal confidence into his or her process. If you want to be a designer you have to build your process that makes you feel comfortable and leads you towards sustainable performance because that is only the way how to become a self-confident, build the real values and provide great results on the long-term basis.

This experience was painful but helpful.

Even if I have 5 minutes to come up with a solution I try to follow my process. The extreme simplification of my process consists analysis, prototyping and validation. I start with a problem and spend at least 3 minutes with researching or analysing, then 1 minute with prototyping and 1 minute with validation. My goal is not propose something that did not stay at least on some research and someone else did not see it because it is so easy to be wrong.

Do meaningful things instead of easy things.

Surface thinkers are great and it is not their job to perceive all these things around because they are great in their own domain. But you as a designer should be the one who leads the tribe beyond the surface. For me is important that mine today work creates mine tomorrow work and there is nothing worse than lost credibility. So, I do not trust to anyone even to myself because I can be simply wrong.

I trust to a design process because that is only the way that can lead me towards something meaningful and even my process can change.