Build your designer profile, not just your design skills

Note: This is Part 3 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

Knowing how to use a few design tools is a good start, but that’s not enough for becoming a good designer.

We can use a simple 4-factor designer profile model to assess where we are and where we want to go as a designer:

  • Maturity: Quality and quantity of work
  • Expertise: Knowledge and experience of design disciplines
  • Toolkit: Capability and capacity to use design tools and techniques
  • Domain: Mastery of business and other domain knowledge
Figure 1: A 4-factor designer profile model.

This is not precise science, just a simple thinking tool to articulate where a designer is both in the design field and on the job market:

Table 1: What scoring high or low on the 4 factors means.

Accordingly, there are 8 designer archetypes:

Table 2: 8 designer archetypes based on generalized designer profiles.

The reality is much fuzzier, of course – nobody fits precisely into any archetype, any of us can be closer to one or more of them.

What’s helpful here is to always assess ourselves comparatively to other practitioners around us and ones we know, and then identify learning opportunities for us to grow.

That can lead to a lot of very different questions, such as:

  • Do I have enough design thinking methods and design doing tools?
  • Is my design expertise sufficient for me to push my career forward where I work?
  • Do I need to diversify my project experience now?
  • Is it time for me to find work on different business domains and industries?
  • What should be the focus of my learning in the next 3, 6 or 12 months?
  • Who can I learn from and regarding what?
  • What kind of mentors should I find and what do I need to learn from them?
  • Am I in the position and ready to lead where I work?

As a designer, how you frame your role defines what you do.

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