Beware of Design Normalization

As a designer, have you been working at one company for an extended period of time? If so, design normalization may be limiting the amount of positive change you can bring to the organization. Let me explain.

When designing for a startup or for an agency, it is easy to approach every product with a fresh perspective. The design is either in its early stages, or it needs a redesign, which allows the freedom to think creatively about the best design solutions.

But what if you are entering a company for a longer-term role, and the company has a collection of legacy designs and experiences?

At the beginning, outdated designs and experiences may be very apparent. If your company does not have a design-oriented culture however, observations may seem less and less apparent as more time passes by. Your mind can become numb to the aspects of a product that once made you cringe.

Pretty scary stuff right? Well I have good news. There’s an easy exercise that you can take from time to time, to keep design normalization out of your life.

Put yourself in the shoes of your future employer.

More specifically, pretend that you are your future employer reviewing your company’s website or mobile app. As this future employer, what are your thoughts? Does the product and user experience reflect the type of craftsmanship that you want to bring to your company?

This exercise is useful for two reasons.

  1. It forces you to escape a normalized mindset when reflecting on your product. The perception of an outsider will often vary from than that of a coworker that may have been at the company for some time.
  2. It forces you to look at your company as whole, instead of just the areas that you may be responsible for. If you think that a future employer might be turned off by an aspect of the product that you are not responsible for, it might be a sign that you need to be a change agent for that area in your company.

This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to have a mindset that they’ll be leaving the company at some point. But by holding yourself to this type of accountability you will be amazed by the questions you start asking yourself.

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