As a UX team leader on Google’s ever-growing design team, I see a lot of resumes. And one of my priorities when sorting them out is diversity thoughts, experience, knowledge …
This often forces me to hire aspiring designers.
I love to hire inexperienced designers. They come with a fresh perspective and want to change something, and I help them build their careers. But instead of experience, I’m looking for certain “personality traits” that have nothing to do with design that can be developed through training and that will be useful to you throughout your career.
If you are an aspiring designer looking for your first job, this article is for you. Find out your advantages and pump them over.
- The value of a fresh look
- Developing empathy
- How to get feedback
- When and how to defend your work
- Developing creative confidence
1. Ask why
Don’t accept the status quo without question. Ask questions! Ask why. Ask a lot of questions.
One of the best things about new hires is a fresh pair of eyes. Use it wisely. It is possible that we, signor designers, have systems and rituals that are no longer valuable. If you, the new employee, do not understand why something is being done this way, ask. This can help us identify deficiencies that need to be corrected.
Did we really need three weekly meetings to discuss related topics? There is no need! But it took a new designer who asked me why we had three meetings. And then we combined them.
“The fact that a product is designed in a certain way does not mean that it should remain that way.”
This also applies to the product. The fact that a product is designed in a certain way does not mean that it should remain that way. Instead of accepting that the current form of the product is its ultimate ideal version, ask why it is the way it is and imagine how it could be improved.
For example, I usually ask new employees who are new to a product to document interaction patterns that they don’t find intuitive to understand. This helped us simplify products, reduce redundancy, and streamline workflows for first use.
If you don’t understand why you should be asking “why”, read this excellent article by Pablo Stanley “5 Whys”.
2. Have empathy for your cross-functional partners
This is difficult to learn in design school, but it is very important in real life. Especially in technology, when you find yourself working with non-designers. Every design decision we make is made in collaboration with developers, product managers, sales managers, marketers – the list goes on.
While they may seem like strangers, learn to understand the motives, hopes, fears, and dreams of your non-designer colleagues. Use design thinking skills to really understand what their roles are and what they hope to achieve. This knowledge will help you when you work with it.
“While they may seem like strangers, learn to understand the motives, hopes, fears, and dreams of your non-designer colleagues.”
Your design knowledge is your product, and these non-designers are your users. Be as responsive to their needs as you are to the needs of any other user.
For example, I was working with a developer on a complex table design, and he kept rejecting the solution I was proposing. After much thought, I figured out the reason. He didn’t want to break consistency by developing a custom component and preferred to use a component from the standard library instead. Once I realized the problem, I figured out how we can customize the default component for our use case, and we were able to get the same end result for our users.
3. Be open to all sources of ideas.
Yes you designerbut ideas for the design of your product / service can come from anywhere. If you feel resistance to other people’s ideas, check if it is your ego. Is this a really bad idea, or is your ego holding you back from a potentially good solution?
Don’t be offended if the developer has an opinion on a particular user flow, or if the product manager thinks the tone of your visual design will not work for the end user.
We make ourselves worse when we protect our industry too much. Finally, for all (not just for designers!) putting the user first is important. Inclusion makes everyone feel involved and care about the end result that we put in the hands of our users.
“We make it worse for ourselves when we protect our industry too much.”
For us, this means that a UX designer must develop a common vocabulary with developers and product managers. When we are united in thinking about use cases, and when we all incorporate UX milestones into our metrics, our users will feel a return.
4. Understand that no idea is sacred.
So, you’ve worked hard on a design solution and you have documentation that proves why this is the right solution, but during testing, your team discovers that there is a problem with the value of this feature.
Now you have to throw everything away and start over.
It’s a bummer, but it’s correct. There is no sacred idea that cannot be abandoned. Accept this.
“There is no sacred idea that cannot be abandoned.”
The design process is rarely, if ever, as linear as it was in school. My friend and colleague Tom Broxton made these sketches illustrating how in fact business the design process is in progress.
5. Believe in your work
This is the other side of the coin. Be open-minded, but not too easy change your point of view. If you’ve done your homework and taken a principled approach to design, believe in yourself because chances are good that you are right. Or at least on the right track.
When you believe in your work and your skills, you can use negative feedback as a way to criticize your own work – as someone else’s point of view, not as objective criticism.
❌ Do not do it: Don’t reject negative feedback
✔️ Do: Dive deeper into the feedback to understand what kind of problem they are trying to point out to you.
Evaluate your design based on feedback and contrast your point of view if your design already suits their interests.
Here are some examples of what this might look like:
? What did they say: we cannot move the table to the very bottom, because no one will scroll that far.
? What do they mean: we need to make sure that users know that there is more data than they see at first glance.
? Possible Solution: indicators that more data will become available when scrolling.
? What did they say: this design does not match our design system.
? what they mean: the user may be confused by this new pattern.
? Possible Solution: Indicate why your proposed pattern fits into the design system. If you have research to back it up, show it.
Remember, there is always the possibility that someone is acting like a jerk simply because they are a jerk or simply wants to embarrass the “new designer.” This is not normal and your manager should be aware of this. If you keep coming back to data and research, summarizing user needs, business goals, and what is doable, you will find it easier to base your opinion on it.
6. Be persistent
You will often hear “not” – from stakeholders, senior management, perhaps even from your cross-functional partners.
You are a beginner, they are experienced. They have a lot more product knowledge than you do, a lot more history, and they might even get stuck in their path.
Fair or not, you will face resistance to your ideas.
Don’t give up anyway.
Feel free to submit your ideas.
When I first started out, I asked my manager for a modular website design because I thought it was the right solution for our client. It was difficult to build, so my manager and development team weren’t thrilled, but I was confident that it was the right choice for a client who was making modular sliding doors and wardrobes. After several rounds of iteration and a lot of research, I came up with the same solution again, but this time I added a list of pros and cons, and ways we could make development easier.
“Fair or not, you will face resistance to your ideas. Don’t give up anyway. “
My manager agreed to present this to the client as one of the options, and guess what – the client chose this one.
Situations like these will teach you how to present your ideas in a way that will win the trust of clients, managers, developers … anyone who will not be won over by your obvious design genius.
7. Learn about the business
The sooner you begin to understand the business, the sooner you can present more compelling ideas to non-designer stakeholders.
Understanding the business means understanding three things:
- Of your product
- Competitive market
- The business reality of your company
Understanding the product means that you know its history.
There is a general essence of the product:
- How did it come about?
- What’s next on the roadmap?
- What problem does it solve?
- What are its goals?
- How have they changed over time?
Then, of course, what’s important to your work:
- Who are your users?
- What do they say about your product?
- What are its technical limitations?
- Where is technology heading?
Understanding the competitive market means all of the above, but for products that may compete with yours. This moment deserves a separate article. But, in short, be aware of what users are saying about these products.
“The sooner you begin to understand the business, the sooner you can present more compelling ideas to non-designer stakeholders.”
Understanding business realities means knowing the things that will matter to the business owner.
- What is the mission of the company?
- What are their annual goals?
- How many staff is available for your product?
- Are there promised results the team is working on?
All of this will help you better understand the project participants and the role of design in creating a product. As mentioned above, the more you know about their goals and limitations, the more likely you are to create solutions that work for everyone.
It was a long time ago, but I still remember how nervous I was when I started working as a designer right after school. Sure, it can be overwhelming, but focusing on these skills can help relieve tension.