Building the judgement muscle

As designers, we like to talk about design. A lot. We blog, chat, podcast, and broadcast, and recently it feels like one topic has dominated all others: the design process. More specifically, the tools and techniques needed to create the freshly-baked feeling that oozes from our favourite products.

As the role of the designer has evolved, so has the tooling we use to do our jobs. Products like InVision, Marvel, Origami, and Framer promise to make it easier to create complex online experiences. On the one hand this is great — anything that helps us keep up with the increasing pace of change is welcomed — but on the other, it adds a new layer of confusion. Designers now face choice paralysis when it comes to deciding on a workflow.

From sketching to Sketch-ing, mocking-up to coding-up, the community has been flooded with opinions and best practices about which tool or technique to use, how, and when.

If you’re just getting into the industry, it’s got to be a little daunting.

From speaking to new designers, it seems the current zeitgeist has created the impression that there’s a right way to approach a problem (and with that comes the implication that there’s a wrong way). Attempts to avoid the wrong approach are leading us to focus on how to design, instead of what (or even why, but more on that another time).

To those confused by what tools or techniques to use, I want to say don’t worry! There is no single right or wrong way. Consider the problem you’re trying to solve and trust your judgement for how to go about getting there. Only you will know if jumping straight in to code is best, or whether a more cautious, rigorous approach would be more suitable. It depends on the problem, the team, the deadline, and what’s at stake. These can’t be distilled into an ideal ‘product design workflow’, so don’t worry that you haven’t found it.

Feel confident that it almost doesn’t matter which new product, framework, or language you learn next — the key to getting the most from these tools is judgement. Focus on building your judgement muscle, as that’s the real skill. The rest can be learned in an afternoon, and mastered over time.