As the technology landscape evolves, so must our role as designers. Just designing doesn’t cut it anymore—you’ve got to get your hands dirty with prototyping, user testing, project management, and even development.
Only by challenging yourself to venture into new areas will your skillset (and value) flourish. To help you on the quest to become more than “just a designer,” consider the new standards and, for kicks, how they compare to the old.
- Past: Review a brief with the client, disappear into a hole for 2 months, reemerge with a static collection of PSDs
- Future: Collaborate and communicate with the client throughout the entire design process
Share your design solutions with as much insight and context as you expected from the client when you learned about their problem.
Communicating challenges and roadblocks is crucial. Don’t make assumptions—ask why things are expected to be a certain way. And be ready to explain your own decisions and ideas.
Deliver working prototypes
- Past: Give the client a collection of pages with notes about how things are supposed to connect and interact
- Future: Provide a native experience with working prototypes for any device so the client can actually feel what was intended
While a bunch of flat images stacked into a PDF or slide deck used to cut it, the modern designer builds prototypes.“A working prototype is a great tool for squashing misunderstandings.”
A working prototype is a great tool for squashing misunderstandings. The more people can use and feel an actual product, the less gray areas there will be.
- Past: Spend majority of time making things look good, often at the cost of usability issues like long load times
- Future: Consider the user at every stage of design, creating a product people want to use
We used to use the word “experience” in an immersive sense, describing experiences so over the top that people might lose themselves in the magic of the product.“A button should be just as tappable with a thumb as it is with a mouse.”
But lately “experience” has shifted toward usability and conversion. Responsive designers are going mobile-first, building light-as-possible experiences with lightning-fast interactions.
A button should be just as tappable with a thumb as it is with a mouse, and it should do exactly what is says it’s going to do. Including UX in the design process is more than making sure a user can use your product—it’s making sure they want to.
Add value at every step
- Past: Formulaic design process with little or no thought about “What if we … ”
- Future: Go beyond the brief, imagining solutions to problems the client hasn’t even considered yet. Beat the curve and show your worth.
Product design isn’t like filling out a Mad Lib. Read between the lines and help your client discover new and unique solutions to blanks they don’t even know about.“Product design isn’t like filling out a Mad Lib.”
Consider the task in a new light—fresh eyes might come up with a radically new solution.
More than “just a designer”
For a group that purports to like affecting industry-wide change, designers sure can be resistant to change themselves. It’s easy to find a rhythm that works, falling into a groove project after project.
Always be in search of new standards and a higher bar by which to measure your input.