Becoming a Designer Part 2: The Whole Human Metaphor

(Read Part 1 here)

Being a Designer is Being Human

What makes a designer is similar to what makes a human being.

As human individuals, we have five things essential to our being:

  • Skeleton that supports our very presence
  • Brain that helps us intuitively respond to the environment
  • Flesh that guides our movement and affords our strength
  • Skin that not only protects us, but also is the medium through which we make direct contact with our environment
  • Mind that enables us proactively engage with the environment
Source: human body by Yu-Hsuan Chen from the Noun Project

Likewise, a designer needs:

  • Understanding Design (Skeleton): a foundational understanding of design that supports our very practice, just like the skeleton.
  • Establishing Designerly Habits (Brain): an established set of habits that helps us intuitively respond to the act of designing, just like the brain.
  • Building Foundational Expertise (Flesh): a deep ownership of expertise that guides our design thinking and affords our design doing, just like the flesh.
  • Learning Design Methods and Techniques (Skin): a solid, while flexible, set of skills that not only prevents us from making grave mistakes, but also enables us to get our hands on the real-world problems and creations, just like the skin.
  • Planning for a Career (Mind): a well-nurtured intention to evolve with the changing landscape of professions, industries, and meanings, just like the mind.

To be a designer is exactly like being a whole human, with skeleton, brain, flesh, skin, and mind.

Modelling Designers

What kind of designer are you?

You can look at yourself by five factors:

  • Understanding: how good do you understand design?
  • Habits: what habits do you have to afford your expertise?
  • Expertise: how do you design?
  • Methods: what’s your practice?
  • Planning: what’s your career vision?

A thinker who does nothing but reading about design may have deep understanding about design, but lacks everything else that a real practitioner has:

A specialist might not have that much understanding but could still master lots of methods and accumulate expertise through real work:

A generalist might not have too many tricks in the bag, yet still establish deep expertise and good understanding through diverse work experiences and effective multidisciplinary habits:

And unfortunately, a dreamer is always a dreamer:

Become a Designer by Becoming Human

Always remember—

Thinking is free. Doing is priceless.

How robust is your skeleton? How much do you understand?
How tuned-in is your brain? What are your designerly habits?
How rich is your flesh? How deep is your expertise?
How resilient is your skin? How versatile are your methods?
Where is your mind? What’s important to your life of work?

Have you found your whole-human ghost in your designer shell?



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