L’eggo of your ego

Stop being a prima donna in the design world

We’ve all been guilty of having an ego at one point. We think ourselves to be infallible and the gatekeepers of user-knowledge. “How dare any question our designs! We know more than some stupid engineer or manager! We’re the masters of the universe!”

It’s difficult to keep ego in-check. For some it’s impossible. Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of ego-driven designers. I’ve been enough meet-ups where I end up talking with someone with an ego that just blow my mind (the rest are awesome humans). Ego, is common in any profession, but quickly noticeable in the design world.

I understand it, trust me. It’s our job to study users. After years of studying users, who would know more than us? We never approach others on how to do their job, so why should any do the same to us?

Design is simply different. The whole point of our job is to receive criticism and apply it. Without this understanding, it’s easy to take it personal when disagreements arise.

This isn’t absolute, but there’s a couple of points I believe could help. We might never get rid of designers ego 100%, but we can try. A bright egoless future lies ahead.

It’s not for you

You don’t build the app for you and you alone. It’s not even for your users. You build the app for the company you work for.

Part of the companies job is to ensure the user is heard, and they do that by employing UX Designers. A UI Designers job is to ensure the solution is correctly conveyed to the user, with information provided by the UX Designer.

The company pays you to do your job, and to be efficient you have to let go of your baby. You can feel attached to your design and hard work, feel proud of it, love it even. It doesn’t change the fact the company owns it. Taking ownership creates jealously, and nobody wants that.

A better approach would be to see you’re part of something bigger. You’re part of a team that created something wonderful. Your decisions will change peoples lives, make their job easier, and/or give them simple delights. It’s not for you, it’s for them.

Your coworkers have opinions too

I would say this is a given, but we tend to listen more to users than to coworkers. Mostly because we take pride and ownership of our craft.

I don’t believe anybody in your organization wants to make a bad product (OK, there might be some assholes). This is a team effort, and it should always be treated as such.

Here we like to do JAD’s (Joint Application Design). It’s where one employee of each expertise helps kickoff the design process. That way, every decision took into account resources, feasibility, ambition, and company vision.

Don’t allow your ego to take over during meetings such as these. They’re not designers, but they can say what doesn’t make sense to them. Even if your company doesn’t have something similar to a JAD, many come to your desk to see what you’re doing. Listen to them. I’m pretty sure that if your work doesn’t make sense to the team, it’s safe to assume it won’t make sense in the world, no matter the audience.

Show progress often, and gather as much feedback internally, as externally.

Shit happens

Get used to it. You won’t win all battles, and many times you’ll have managers trying to use your hand as a mouse.

Instead of channeling that fuel into anger, try a different approach. Listen to your manager, tell them it’ll take time to try their idea, and take it into consideration. Never say no, but don’t say yes. When the times comes, you can speak about how you tried their idea and it didn’t work, or that it sparked another idea. If you actually manage to link their dumb idea to an unrelated great idea, then even better.

If it’s a dumb idea, and they pull the boss card… well, that’s where of shit happens comes into play. Not everything is peaches and cream.

“ Bullshit flashing fuchsia spinning orange button!”

If you learn the business, know how to talk to different personas within your organization, then you might have a way to better articulate your point. It’s not about saying yes or no, it’s about expressing yourself and reaching a compromise, even if they’re your boss. Don’t fight them, listen, understand their point of view (even if it’s dumb), and you’ll see that you’ll earn their trust little by little.

Try to turn shit happens into maybe good shit happens.

The reality is, we’ve all been guilty of having an ego, including myself. If we’re not mature enough to accept that, then we have no place in the design world. We’re human and we make mistakes. In many cases we might know a lot more than those within our organization, but we’re not always right.

Any designer that believes they’re perfect, never does anything wrong, or they always know best, simply won’t grow. They’ll job-hop every chance they get because “the company doesn’t understand design” or “no one ever listens to me”, when it reality their ego needs some strangling.

Let go of your ego, and you’ll see that you’ll grow faster. You can learn a lot from your organization, not just its users.