The act of being a professional designer is a process of iteration in itself — demanding ongoing feedback from peers & clients, of course, but also continuous critical self-examination, guided by an attitude of optimistic, if somewhat grudging, improvement. Design is an art of improving things — changing existing situations into preferred ones, as Herb Simon famously declared in his definitive treatise on design ’Sciences of the Artificial’. So it is as well for the designer to reflect and resolve to make adjustments — which requires a healthy does of detachment and humility 😉
/ Looking back
So as I look back upon the past year and ahead to what’s possible this year, I’m mindful of some key aspects that might be of help for you as well. For me, last year (2017) was a year of:
* Re-entering familiar contexts — that of an established yet growing corporate design team with product teams burdened by legacy protocols
* Re-building credibility — as with any new engagement you start from zero, developing pivotal relationships and scoring “quick wins” to build up that “street cred” for more ambitious pursuits later
* Learning new languages (and where to introduce my own vernacular) — As with any new design / product dev context, there is a kind of jargon of words and actions (behaviors) to learn; in this case, heavily Agile-driven and also ideology around story, influence, craft, benefit and value. From “durable teams” to “TPV metrics” and beyond.
* Satisficing and adapting my design goals — every product development context has their own dysfunctions and dramas, so the trick is knowing (or at least sensing with confidence) where and how to satisfice (compromise) effectively.
* Role modeling design leadership — for teams unaccustomed to “designer as partner” (versus “designer as production assistant”), via discourse and delivery, this was a considerable challenge (yet huge opportunity!)
* Cultivating a genuine design ethos — especially for the squad that I lead and how to parlay that ethos (which itself is constantly evolving) into dialogues with my product and engineering peers, to shape a nuanced holistic view of Design
Overall it was undoubtedly a challenging yet exhilarating year of continued growth as a design practitioner and thought leader — there was never a dull moment, that’s for sure! In certain areas there was considerable success, while in others…ehh, maybe not so much 😉
Demonstrating prudent patience, expressing passion in a targeted deliberate manner, being smarter about the intrinsic politics of a highly fraught situation, better balancing of tactics and strategy (and communications to my partners, accordingly), and knowing when to delegate or simply let things go — all were key areas of self-improvement, no question. Gotta keep at it!
/ Looking ahead
Looking ahead to this year (2018), I resolve to improve upon those items, and also aim to pursue the following:
* Help (aka “coach”) product and engineering leaders to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable — it’s a tricky balance of acknowledging one’s expertise and opening up to new (potentially risky or threatening) models of work, but with the aim of improving the team and product and customer outcomes
* Do more cross-functional facilitative engagements (aka “conversations”) going among traditionally siloed teams, via the power of artifacts and disposable designs
* Elevate design practice into more of a strategic art (aka “connecting the dots”), beyond delivering Sketch files and Zeplin specs, that speak to business aims and offering lenses upon those over-arching goals (and processes)
* Network with folks outside of the usual UX arena, to broaden my perspectives and learnings about ways to guide and improve culture, process, innovation, etc.
And of course…write more, sketch more, listen more, and keep iterating on “being a designer”. After all, it’s a persistent journey of reflecting and resolving.