Goals for Designers

Mike Brand
4 min readMar 3, 2016

We set quarterly goals at AppNexus, and every quarter everyone on the design team struggles to come up with good ones. This quarter I sat down and looked for patterns to make goal setting easier.

1. Add to Your Tool-belt

This is probably the most common type of goal. It’s learning a new skill that’s directly relevant to your job. Often the skills have a clear benefit but are too tough to pick up in the middle of a product, so they become a goal instead.

I don’t know why one of his design tools is a radio

Design skills

Design covers a lot of different areas and practices. Everyone is stronger in some and weaker in others. I, for example, generally need to spend a little extra time on visual design. As such, one of my goals this quarter is to do at least 10 Daily UI challenges. If you struggle with thinking about interactions you could try something similar for wireframes, prototyping, creating user stories etc.

Design Tools

There are a lot of different types of design tools, from apps to programming languages to physical tools! Some popular apps are Principle, Flinto, Pixate, or Sketch. I’m a little biased towards this goal because I love trying new tools — It’s interesting to see how different apps solve the same problem. You could also learn a programming framwork like React or Framer.js. Physical tools would be practicing drawing, or paper prototyping.


“Process” is a pretty broad term, but try something new. You could pair design on a few ideas, or you could suggest a new review process. It could be something more personal like spending more time working high or low fidelity (a few people had “sketch out with multiple solutions”). Take a look at your current design process and see where the difficulties are. Or ask someone that you work with if there’s anything you could do to make their life easier.

2. Work on those Soft Skills

Everyone knows that design is only half of your job. You’ve also got to be a good human being.

Bunnies are so soft


When I started at my company I received the feedback that I was a great team member, but I could take a stronger leadership role. It was great advice that I had no idea how to follow. The big change came when I found an interesting task I wanted to try and people agreed to help me. Find something you want to try (Run a conference, create design principles, come up with a style guide etc)

Sync More

Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had a “Sync more with X” type goal. For me it’s engineers, for a friend it’s their product manager, for one of my coworkers it was with other designers. It seems there’s always someone else we should be talking to (a different user type, support people etc).


Communicating is important, and improving your communication takes time. There are multiple ways to work on this goal. It could be writing an article (like this one,) working on your design documentation, practicing presentations, or leading a meeting.

Other Job Skills

My team occasionally has to play some roles similar to other teams. For example, we have to interview job candidates, manage some projects, and look at data. These skills are quite different to our normal day-to-day so we seek out specific training for them.

3. Have a Non-Core Project

Re-Design an Internal tool

Almost every company has some internal tools, and they are rarely well designed. Offering to help with is a good chance to practice designing something you don’t normally get to, and it can be an opportunity to practice leadership.

Create a Resource

When we started using Sketch I spent a weekend building a lot of our interface elements as symbols. Most apps support something like this, whether it be modules in Framer, or master slides in Keynote.

Resources can also be more broad. You could get a group together to figure out what your design principles are, or document what your design processes are for future new hires.

4. Other Sources of Inspiration

  • Check your company’s role descriptions and see if there is anything you need to work on to get promoted
  • Look at the roles for jobs you’d like to have in the future, possibly at other companies.
  • Look at what your company is lacking and see if there is anything you can do to help.
  • Your performance review should have areas that you can focus on to grow.

Hopefully these helped job some ideas for your goals. I’d love to hear about any goals you’ve had that have been particularly successful. Respond on here or tweet me @mikeybrand.