Non-Technical Lessons I’ve Learned So Far Being a Designer

photo of Bethany Legg

As a designer, if we practice or keep doing our job, we’ll get better at playing typography, combining colors, or anything related to visual.

If we believe that design is an art of problem-solving. Then throughout the process, we give a space for a way of thinking to grow along with the creative visual things. A thinking that we can also relate and apply it in everyday life.

In design, this way of thinking we know as design thinking. Methods and approaches that designers apply during the process of designing. Somehow this thinking influences me in daily life. It inspires the way I speak to people, respond when things happen and at the end of the day it give me ideas.

So, here are things, non-technical, I’ve learned so far being a designer:

Spend more time to understand problems

Early in the design process, we will start with a brief led by the product manager or client. In this phase, we have to dig any information as much as possible. So we can understand the exact problems or needs, later on, we will be able to design the right solution.

We have to start as a good listener and capture any useful information. Next, we ask questions to clarify any unclear statement. Whether it’s still an assumption or which statement requires further research.

photo of Seemi Peltoniemi

In a casual situation, I quite often in a condition where my friends shared me their problems. Sometimes I was too quick giving my opinion rather than spending more time to listen and ask. In the end, most of the conversation just ended up with jokes and less meaningful.

It was a bit different when I took more time to listen and ask. I could understand more. So that, I felt a bit more confident to jolt ideas. Just general one. At least, I gave them something relevant and sensible. At last, it became a long and insightful discussion.

See challenges from different perspective

If you are a fan of design-thinking, you must have heard this three words: How might we. It’s a simple yet powerful phrase. It solves difficult challenges by first asking, such as, how might we make our product better, how might we achieve the goals and so on.

It helps us to reframe the challenges into opportunities that the team or company can carry it next. I usually use ‘How might we’ in a modest way. Not in a meeting room with sticky notes. Just a casual quick question — and yes I have to admit that “how might we” is an effective way to frame up new opportunities.

Outside of work, sometimes I use that phrase in a night discussion with my wife. We were about to tackle challenges together, like how might we save more for a holiday or how might we have a better quality time together for reading the Bible.

By using the phrase, it helps me not just to stay on the challenges and see from different perspective.

Explore some of the best possibilities before making a decision

“To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas” — Linus Pauling, chemist, biochemist, two Nobel prizes winner

Inspired by divergent thinking, a term that first coined by a psychologist J.P. Guilford. I usually give some possible solutions to make room for stakeholders to consider. If we fall in love on just one solution, we may find a good one, but not the best one.

Our life is full of choices, right? To be honest, I sometimes easily eliminated all the options. Just because I wanted to make it simple and fast. Maybe some are just small things, but some not.

Somehow I feel those little things are the right place for me to train myself in dealing with the big things later.

One little thing that I remember is when I opened a dollar saving. I was so quick in making the choice based on friend’s suggestion. Without checking the benefits in other banks, whereas some banks offer more.

I am afraid that ‘instant’ habit will get used to every aspect of my life. I imagine this should not happen when I have to decide what’s best for my children. Otherwise, I would have missed a moment to be the best father for them.

photo of Steven Van Loy

Use feedback as a way to design better myself

One of the ways to improve a product is by involving user feedback into the design process. Then what if, we as a human, want to become a better person? I guess that should work in the same way, by listening and being receptive to feedback — then change. I know it’s not that easy. Maybe if we are in a conscious state of looking for feedback, we’ll be easier to listen and accept feedback. But if we don’t look for it, we tend to be more defensive.

I remember when I was still active dancing. For several times I got feedback or correction for certain dance moves or a choreography. I found myself easily turned to defensive mode. Sometimes I just said yes, but deep down, I couldn’t fully accept that. Moreover, I felt unmotivated.

The way I handle feedback changed a lot through my work as a designer. I learn to accept feedback from clients, co-workers. Yes, sometimes the feedback sucked and made me feel intimidated. But, I couldn’t avoid that because the setting is a workplace. I have to stay professional.

Along the process, the way I manage feedback in work somewhat influences me in daily life. I know how I should deal with feedback, inputs, even critics for me — and that’s good! It helps me to design better myself.


Photo of Dennis Ottink

I believe we, as designers, are not just people who solve problems in creative ways — but we can also solve our problems in life and design our lives, relationship, and family better.

Have a good day!

Other writing: 
Every Designer Sucks In The Beginning. Well, That’s Fine.

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