One Pixel at a Time: Learning to Learn

As I’ve stepped into my first real role as a designer (real meaning if I don’t perform well, I won’t afford rent) I’ve been working hard to keep track of how I’m changing as a designer over time. I believe school is important and of value, but I also believe that I have only learned close to 10% of what I truly need to know to become successful in the industry.

You see, for almost every project throughout school, once it was handed in, it was almost immediately forgotten. A service redesign? You earned an A, but have no idea how that redesign might have performed or what user feedback you would have gotten over time. You designed and built a new feature that didn’t exist yet for a service you use everyday? Great! But how will that affect the business side? How will your customers perceive it? It’s simply handed in, graded, and filed away.

Simply speaking, I’ve quickly learned this is not how the real world works. Most projects are never finished, only iterated upon, and then iterated upon again. You don’t ship something without first thinking through every implication of the new feature or product. It’s no longer about pixel-perfect perfection, it’s about combining both an experience and interface that both makes sense and solves a problem for the customer, while meeting the company’s goals at large.

When I first arrived to San Francisco, I was feeling pretty in over my head. Okay, extremely in over my head. Deep end without any floaties, kind of over my head, a new designer, fresh out of college in one of the smartest cities and working for an incredible startup. If I’m being honest, some days it’s still hard not to feel that way. But I’m learning how to both adapt and grow, is the the best way for me to overcome that fear and achieve my bigger goals.

Like any good design projects, my growth will be a series of iterations, and these are some of the steps I’ll be using to test, redefine and implement in my growth.

  1. Seek feedback: I’m not the best at my job, I’m always looking for ways to grow on future projects by finding new processes and how interact with my coworkers. Ask them for advice! Be the easiest person to work with, and learn when to speak up.
  2. Understand and be open to modifying your process: Finishing the project and ensuring that it solves the problems you were after is important. However, what may be more important to me and my team is understanding how we arrived at the solution. Did we research our problem well enough? Did it meet the business’s goals? How did we iterate and when in the process did we choose to receive feedback?
  3. Keep a daily journal: This has been the best thing I’ve done. San Francisco, and other cities alike, are fast moving places where each day moves even quicker than the last. My train commute home is about 50 minutes and I’ve been taking that time to write down everything new that I learned that day. From the beginning small details about how to better communicate to the big ones about how to create a better design for the next time around. Grab one of these, treasure it and use it everyday.
  4. No egos: By understanding how to objectively look at the first solution I get down in pixels, and while this will likely to be my favorite, I know it’s probably (no, definitely) not going to be the one that ships to the world. I have to forget about my bias, listen to my coworkers, mentors and users, to keep working to create the solution that works best.

This is the first post in a series I’m hoping to make about capturing my journey with life in a startup, relationships, and living is a new city that coudn’t be more foreign to good ol’ Ohio.

Say hi! 👋

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.