Personality → Design chops & challenging zombie correctness, a.k.a. How you do anything is How you do EVERYTHING.
I have long held the belief that your personality is strongly linked to your design skills. This type of link may well extend to other professions too. Sure, a doctor may demonstrate care and attentiveness which may percolate into her daily personal life and perhaps a lawyer chose the path as an extension of her natural proclivity for perseverance and diligence while another professional may display analytical skills as a habit. But the personality — occupation proficiency link is, I believe, most pronounced and evident in the design space; A space that requires you to demonstrate all those qualities mentioned above plus some more. As simple as it may sound, it may yet come as a surprise to some that what kind of a person you are determines how you design.
Today, homogeneity in design is sometimes all one can see everywhere. UI design has become somewhat of a straightforward question - answer, problem - solution activity, or at least interpreted as one by many. Look at a 100 UI design portfolios and 95 of them will look the same. Everybody is so obsessed with patterns and trends and guidelines and best practices that as soon as a requirement is given, I see designers clamouring to first and foremost, learn how others have solved similar problems. This is alright so long as you want to get the product’s important, but not only, need to negotiate the functional battle out of the way. But if one dares to invent, dares to dream a product that seeks to enrich experiences above merely meeting business goals, one enters the scary prospect and vulnerable territory of having the product shout / reflect the maker’s personality. It is therefore easier and more convenient to be a sort of “correct” zombie — one devoid of any real individuality but one who will almost always get the design “right” and will take great pride in checking off all the requirements in the list. We love to feel productive and a generous dose of zombieness helps in that aspect.
But I worry constantly about being really true to yourself. Given that I have digressed a little from the topic I wanted to discuss, summarised in the title of this post, I shall return to what I was trying to say i.e., The link between your personality and your design skills.
A designer is generally expected to be organized, methodical, scientific and curious in her process. Is it possible to just switch these on when you enter the workplace? Conversely, Is it possible for one to treat her life and relationships in an irrational and pessimistic manner and still be a good designer? I doubt that very much, even as I recognize the usefulness of some degree of pessimism, and we designers do wear that hat from time to time when designing to handle errors in our UI, for example. Or the dudes designing parachutes, pacemakers or amusement rides. Point is, if you are a nine to five designer, chances are you are a shitty one, just as you cannot be a nine to five human being.
If you are a designer by occupation and you encounter moments in your life and relationships where you fail to show empathy, optimism or take care or take notice, chances are you are most likely an average to shitty designer. I know this because I have been one. I read somewhere that the attitude with which you approach a problem determines how much of a problem it’s gonna be. You need to be a hardcore optimist to thrive in this space. Throw in an ample amount of curiosity too as each project comes with it, it’s own unique set of challenges and domain knowledge. Are you the kind of person that goes to a restaurant and orders almost always the same thing? Are you that person that watches the same film numerous times? Chances are you are an average to shitty designer.
You could be a dick to the waiter or rip open a package hastily that could have otherwise been opened neatly with a little patience and the chances are that you will negotiate the various challenges commonly faced in a product design/development process with the same attitude.
We are creatures of habit and our habits feed our personality. A mundane occurrence and one’s reaction to the same can sometimes be most illuminating.
A good designer / human being listens keenly and is interested in multiple perspectives above being vehemently married to her own. We can’t write off the danger of complacency, growing rigidity, imprisonment by our own comfortable habits and opinions. Look around you. How many people whom you know well -- people even younger than yourselves -- are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits?
You can be a good designer ONLY if you are a good human being. How you do anything is how you do everything. Of this, have no doubt.
The cool thing is that we designers have the luxury of fixing both / everything by just working on one.