Design perspectives: the beginner’s mind

Seeing your design process through a broader lens

My personal experience has taught me that having an open attitude helps you combine different perspectives to form a unique way of thinking. In our company, we define a ‘beginner’s mind’ as an individual that provides an open attitude for discoveries and learnings. It is a value that allows people to have a broader perspective, focusing on the long-term vision rather than the short-term.

Design by Depop

You learn products by playing with products. It is really important that if the goal is to cope with the unexpected then you have to spend time doing that in your practice. You have to spend a substantial amount of your practice routine watching other products, understanding why certain components were decided to be placed in certain positions, or why a specific colour has been used to enhance clarity in the product language. No amount of skill, exercise, design training, or product theory is going to make you a great designer if you don’t spend some time putting all of your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch) to use whilst playing with products.

Learn from case studies

Invest in understanding products. The fact that you want to learn design but you don’t want to use real products is a missed chance. So of course you want to spend time in looking into some services or products that have voice in the market: make sure that you know all the famous designers, make sure that you have heard all the individuals that are involved in your area of interest and you know what’s going and why things are happening.

Design is a way of doing, it has different perceptions and processes, and the only way you are gonna develop your pattern is by listening to a great variety of projects.

Go retrospective with yourself

Start recording yourself. It is important that you realize that you can’t really tell how you work while you’re designing, because you’re using all your energy to actually design the product, so if you track your progress and you look back, then you can tell what is really going on. This is the best way to improve your timing, your thoughts, your ability to connect dots across the process, and this is really something that you wanna start doing as early on as you can.

Get used to listening not only to yourself but also to other people. The thing you need to learn in this process is also that while you are designing it should be a standard to receive tons of opinions. In this case, keep in mind your end goal and cluster the feedback you receive, don’t just get frustrated and then think everything is wrong. Things will come in their own time, and the best way to do that is to keep all changes and feedback in order. It takes a bit of training, but this is a huge help in improving and it’s gonna make your progress a lot faster.

Depop Swap Shop, London. Photo by Brigita Žižytė.

Enjoy the process

Studying design and learning user experience is a process, it’s a journey and it’s gonna be like a perfect learning curve. It takes years and wherever you are at you have to accept how you work in different teams. You will always shape your behaviour to provide the best for your team. If you’re only gonna be happy when you’ve reached the goal and not in the process of trying to improve and trying to reach the goal, then you’re probably gonna stay disappointed.

Don’t be afraid to take chances, don’t be afraid to evolve, it’s part of being a designer, that we keep understanding, keep learning new things and keep experimenting.

Train your mind

Design is mostly an undefined process, take advantage of the fact that your brain is really good at recognising and understanding patterns. Learn some design theory, you wanna be able to figure out what other people have learned in the past, what was the progress behind their final solution, how did they test products and why did they make certain decisions. This is going to help you understand and remember how the design works, how the solutions fits into the bigger picture.

Imitate good products

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Every industry has its own language, learn the subtle nuances and details by studying their decisions. One of the best ways you can do this is by imitating some good examples, but always compare their decisions with your mission. Otherwise, you risk building something that does not fully suit your situation.

It is essential that you understand the reason why certain decisions were made in order to modify them according to your user’s need. This is how you learn some really important things about user experience, user behaviours and then also development capabilities - from an engineer’s point of view.

Depop Swap Shop, London. Photo by Brigita Žižytė.

Understand people

If you want to keep an open mind, you need to learn from others, because those are the people you have to play with. If you learn a lot from them, then you can also have a lot of different examples when you approach things. By learning from the minds that surround you, you’ll expand your listening skills and your vocabulary, which in turn will help your process.

Understand from people and let people teach you, this is a way of applying all the things that you’re checking out and really trying to receive feedback as something extremely important, like a gift. Another thing that’s also important about learning from others, is that people are gonna see you as a person that is easy to approach and this is gonna make it a lot easier for you to find the right people to team up with in the long run.

Create your own culture within a team

Try and find the right language to communicate with the people you work with, this is really important, because design is not a process that involves only you.

Design is deeply influenced by other disciplines and many times you will end up interacting with them. Naturally, a big part of this involves performing together as a team, so you need to learn their culture and understand all the priorities conceived in your business and reformulate them into a design solution that benefits your end users.

Start now: play, listen, improve, repeat.

The role of the designer is a crossroad between accessibility, imagination, usability and people. It’s a process and each time you will start a new journey and it will be a different experience. If you keep this advice in mind, you will start your travels with an open faith. Always keep your mind focused on your process and your feet aimed towards the end goal.

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