The world needs you to be the generalist designer of your own mix

Shanshan Zhou
Design, discovery, life
3 min readJun 10, 2021


In our rapidly changing and ever more complex world, the type of problems designers can tackle has evolved from communication and product (for the purpose of consumption) into services, experiences, and systems that have the potential to profoundly impact the future of humanity. To help shape our future, we need a new breed of designers — we cannot risk leaving all rapidly unfolding mess caused by careless design to more carelessness or complacency.

We need designers who adventure across various domains. We need designers who are not only familiar with various topics and practices within the domain of design, we need designers who understand how design fits into adjacent domains such as product strategy, business, and technology. We need designers who are aware of the wider context of the world our design shall serve, this ranges from our community to our countries and nations, to the entire humanity, as well as the ecosystem that we humans live in.

We need designers who understand humans. We need designers who are versed in psychology, behavioral economy, anthropology, and philosophy. We need designers who listen deeply into literature, film, visual art, performance art. We need designers who are familiar with various subjects under humanity studies and social science.

We need designers who are confident with science and technology. We need designers who are familiar with the scientific methods and have tools to run experiments and test hypotheses. We need designers who are curious about but not mystify or threatened by cutting technology. We need designers to know how to talk to computers, and teach computers to talk to humans.

We need designers who come with diverse perspectives and life experiences. We need designers who come from different backgrounds, with different life stories, with a deep understanding of different human experiences, with profound empathy and compassion for humans of all shapes sizes from all walks of life.

We need designers who think holistically, consider the long-term outcome of what we create, work iteratively with a fine-tuned sense to respond and adapt with agility.

We need designers who don’t follow dogma, we need them to question the status quo, reframe challenges, break boundaries. After all, we are supposed to be here to deploy innovative, creative, and effective strategies to solve complex problems.

We need designers who are thrilled about learning and exploring new horizons while staying humble enough to accept they don’t know what they don’t know.

We need more generalist designers who are jack of all trades, but most importantly, we need masters of flexibility.

Designers around the world, I call on you today to be the bad-ass generalist of your own mix.

This is our first step towards creating a kinder fairer future for all.