(I wrote this for the OfferZen Blog – because the issue had been bugging me after some conversations with designer friends. It contains ideas I’ve learned at OfferZen, I guess – an organisation where people really get things done.)
Digital product designers often tell me they chose their career because they want to make a positive impact on real people’s lives. But they often seem to look a bit disappointed. It seems that because of the approaches designers take to their work, they often don’t achieve that impact at all.
I’ve been there. And I’ve got some hard-won tips to help overcome the problem.
But first let’s examine why it happens…
Your designer-brain: Blessing and curse
I’m not a formal expert on thinking styles or personality, but I’ve hired, trained and worked with great designers for the last twenty years. And I think there’s a fighting chance that you have:
- An opposable mind. Strategist and design thinker Roger Martin wrote a book about it. Powerful design thinkers, he argues, can hold an idea and its opposite in their heads at the same time, without getting freaked out. “What if this were true? Or what if that were true?” Or any of the other options in the middle. That skill is what lets you explore many alternatives to find the best one.
- A tendency towards perfectionism: Poor service, inconsistencies, doors that you pull when they look like you should push them – they all drive you crazy. But it’s your sensitivity to those details that makes you the right person to design something better.
- An N in the middle of your Myers Briggs type indicator (rather than an S). N stands for iNtuition. And if you do lean that way, you “tend to trust information that is less dependent upon the senses, that can be associated with other information.” About 2/3rds of people are NOT like you. They are more “likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete”. But if you only thought about things you can see and touch today, you wouldn’t be so good at imagining the UX of tomorrow.
Feel special? You should.
But remember that every superpower has a dark side. Here’s yours: Your broad range of ideas, your imagination and your perfectionism can stop you from getting anything finished. Before you know it, years can go by without you actually achieving anything you really wanted.
Three rules to make the most of your talent
So below are three rules I’ve been learning and relearning for my whole life. They can help you use your design brain better, and make that proverbial “dent in the universe”:Continue reading “How to actually make an impact as a product designer”