Stop Saying, “Well, I’m Not a Designer…”

Design meetings always go the same way:

Designer presents some work to a bunch of company folk. Some with some idea of design, some with none — and sure enough, eventually someone will utter the phrase:

“Well, I’m not a designer but…”

And then they’ll say:

“…I don’t think users will click here.” 
“…I don’t think that text makes sense.” 
“…I don’t think that blue looks good by that green and that yellow text.”

Mmmm. Yellow text. My favorite.

So, there are a lot of problems with those recommendations — and a good designer will tell you why you shouldn’t think for the users and much more. But, I don’t want to change the designer’s habits — I want to change yours.

Here’s the thing — when you say, “Well, I’m not a designer” — you’re devaluing yourself. You’re saying to everyone in the room, I have an opinion on this, but it’s not as important as someone else’s.

I’m going to say something that designers are going to hate me for. Dude. Buddy. Bro.

You ARE a designer!

Design, by definition is:

1. A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.

That sounds dumb, so let’s use this instead:

Design is the creation of something — an interface, brand colors, a logo, anything — to solve a problem.

Sometimes the problem is concrete — Users can’t log out.
Sometimes the problem is lofty — Users don’t trust our brand.

But each is a kind of problem that good design is intended to solve. And you may not have a formal education in the creation of visual design. You might not even know how to open Photoshop. But… you do have the ability to solve problems, to consider problems and to propose solutions. To think through a process of solution and building things.

So… in a practical sense, you may not be a very GOOD designer. If you’re working with someone that is, you MUST trust them, and their opinions, and their explanations, because they have dedicated and proven experience in solving these sorts of problems. Not trusting them, just proves you’re a very, very bad designer. The worst in fact. The kind that other designers want to burn in the seventh ring of icy Hell.

But, before you go throwing yourself out with the bath-water, try and remember. You’re a designer too. You may not be an artist, and you should most-def. trust artists with art, but don’t sit by when someone’s riding on their ego about how this is something for only Designers to decide — turns out when they phrase it like that, with the emphasis on capital “D” — the D doesn’t stand for Designer, it stands for Dick.

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