Being a Designer is Like Being a Human

Note: This is Part 4 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

As I’ve written elsewhere, human is a great metaphor for what makes a designer.

A human being has a skeleton:

A human being has a brain:

A human being has flesh:

A human being has skin:

A human being has a mind:

Likewise, a designer has a “skeleton” – a foundational understanding of design that supports designing as a creative practice:

A designer has a “brain” – an established set of habits that helps us intuitively respond to the act of designing:

A designer has “flesh” – a deep ownership of expertise that guides our design thinking and affords our design doing:

A designer has “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:

A designer also has a “mind” – a well-nurtured intention to evolve with the changing landscape of professions, industries and meanings:

What makes a designer is exactly what makes a human being.

Chances are, you won’t be able to learn most of those from a design program or bootcamp.

The problems of design education have been repeatedly pointed out by some of the best design theorists, researchers and practitioners in the field.

Jon Kolko argues that design educators need to teach slower to teach better.

Likewise, I’d argue that design learners need to learn slower to learn better.

It takes 10 months to grow a human baby. It takes a lot longer to grow up.

Becoming a designer is so much more than applying a pretty layer of skin.

All that points to the simple truth you already know: sometimes there’s just no shortcut to prosperity.

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