Designer’s Role is Bigger Than Yourself

Note: This is Part 8 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

As a designer, you’re not just designing for yourself. In fact, you’re almost always not.

Design is a service relationship. Design is utilitarian. If it’s not utilitarian, then perhaps it’s not design.

The roles you play in the world are almost always bigger than yourself. You inevitably have responsibilities as relative, friend, lover, partner, parent, and what not, designer.

You don’t necessarily have to have a standard for yourself, but your roles definitely do.

Just as a team is almost never about any specific member, your role as a designer in a team is almost never about you. Being a designer doesn’t necessarily give you any leverage, privilege or high ground.

Designer or not, you’re either an “individual contributor” or “people manager”. Either way, you have to earn your way to influencing people and the world, just like how you use design to make others think and feel and do things.

You have to inquire humbly, consult humbly, help humbly and eventually lead humbly.

Additionally, you’d better put faith in design, so that you wouldn’t become the lost designer.

That’s a lot to ask, I know.

That’s exactly why designer is a role that’s bigger than yourself.

That’s how you grow both personally and professionally.

When you get far enough along the spectrum that you really know the difference between bad and good, and how much there is to know, and that you will always be surprised, and are convinced you’re nothing more than mediocre— that’s when you’re at your best. That’s when you get the best results. You’ve put in your 10,000 hours. You’ve become the person everyone considers a master. Conversely, you wake up knowing there is no such thing. You’re only a master because you never stop learning.

Robert Hoekman Jr., Experience Required: How to Become a UX Leader Regardless of Your Role

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