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Dear Designer, this is how your journey will look like
It has been more than a decade since I embarked on my journey in design. The years allowed me to meet a great spectrum of designers. Some are extremely eager to get to the top, others are not sure what's next. 
Either way, we start somewhere and this article is dedicated to our young aspiring designers.

What is design?

Design's role is more than making things look beautiful. The true essence of design is to solve real problems. Design is not the icing on the cake. Design is about closing the gap between user's needs and execution challenges.

So as designers, your responsibility is to define good design - a solution that meets user's expectations, business goals and technical limitations. Here are some characteristics that will make design a good fit for you:

  1. I enjoy the process of solving problems.
  2. I am ready to go beyond "design" to make things work.
  3. I am a good communicator.

These characteristics sound a lot like you until they are truly tested in real work. Let's go through them.

I enjoy the process of solving problems.
I foolishly thought this was one of my key strengths until I found out how quickly I jump into the 'perfect solution' without a full understanding of the scenario. I still remember the day when I presented the perfect UI to our product development team.

I was expecting applause for my brilliant idea. Instead, the team started engaging by asking questions like, "How will this work when the project has multiple subsections?" and "How do I get a full view of this?"

I realised how shallow my "solution" was it wished I could vanish from the meeting room.

At this point, I have two options:

  1. Conclude by feeling inadequate to provide good ideas because I am just a designer.
  2. Go back to the drawing board and continue to develop the idea with the feedback I received.

Since I see myself as an ambitious designer, Option 2 would be a wiser move. This process went on for no less than four weeks before the solution was officially agreed upon by everyone in the team. That leads us to the next point.
Josephine Toh & Law Hui Sheng - Microsoft IP Co-Sell Demo
XTOPIA Development Team getting ready for Microsoft IP Co-Sell Demo
I am ready to go beyond "design" to make things work.
Nobody likes to be told how to design by someone who does not know design. This applies to my interaction with software developers, system analysts and marketing leads. If design is about closing the gap and deliver good design, one must never stay within the 'design zone' and consider challenges from all aspects.

If you are true to your design journey, consider learning things beyond aesthetics and get your hands dirty with code, SWOT, stats and AI. Nobody can take away your knowledge and these new perspectives are going to make you a better designer. Earn the respect of others by proposing well thought out solutions.

Continuous learning is essential to stay in the game. You don't want to be left behind just because you are a designer, do you?
I am a good communicator.
Have you ever tried to get your point across to a non-design team member? It can be so frustrating you simply want to walk away and give up. That is going to prevent you from advocating for your users (or clients).

I remember going up to my supervisor one day and said, "I am not good with words." Instead of getting "It's okay", he said, "Why not put it down in a deck of slides or use visuals to get your message across instead?" Oh yes, why not?

From that day onwards, I started hosting discussions with presentation slides, videos and other forms of materials to make others understand my points better, and clearer. I prototype visuals and demonstrate the steps instead of trying to explain verbally.

Over the years, I have learned what works for different groups of audiences. My point is, if you care about your users, don't allow communication challenges to prevent you from standing up for your good design.
Branding Workshop Session with Securities Commission Malaysia
A website direction workshop with Securities Commission Malaysia 

If you are on your way to join a design team, I hope this will give you a perspective of how the journey ahead is going to be. All said, every interaction and feedback is an opportunity for us to reflect and decide on how we want to respond to it.

Like what my mentor taught me - Don't get upset, get results.
Joe is the Agency Manager of XIMNET Malaysia since 2018. She is also the UX Lead for an web building platform, XTOPIA.IO.

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