The “Whole” Designer

I used to think that a great designer wasn’t anything more than an aggregate of skills that are mastered over time. I followed the best designers and thought, “I’ll be set once I get that good…once I work on that account…once I work with those people…once I learn Illustration, JavaScript, Xcode, Photography...[insert skill you read about in some random “Top 10 Skills You Need to Know” article]…”

The truth is that especially nowadays, raw talent and skills are only a fraction of what makes a designer great. Other things determine a designer’s happiness, growth and fulfillment and – dare I say – success. But those “other things” aren’t taught in college or any of the plethora of online courses that are available. Stewing in envy of the skill-set of others can distract from discussing what the world really needs from you.

What many designers may not realize today is that being a great designer also means being aware of the gushy, in-between stuff. Stuff like courage (to risk and play), desire (for growth), curiosity (to understand) and confidence (to sell ideas). These things you can develop over time through daily habits, patience and a good framework. These are things you can practice with every single project and each interaction; and these are things that make a designer well-equipped to face the ever-changing and ever-demanding world. This stuff serves as a solid foundation when you’re jockeying for position in a world that can easily crush you with raw information.

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Designers that are true servants of their clients and their users are not really in the deliverables game.

Ultimately, we are in the business of ideas and relationships.

This does not mean that you don’t need to learn whatever it takes for you to perform well. I’ll repeat – we are in the business of relationships. I believe that in order to serve the client and yourself, you need to work on mastering the technical skills that will allow you to deliver. Mastering these skills should also satisfy your curiosity.

But I’d stop there.

The next time you get caught up chasing your tail by trying to accumulate random skills you think you need to learn, just remember: the whole designer is greater than the sum of his/her skills. Try not to make yourself crazy. This is supposed to be fun.

What would make you happier in your career? Share in the comments or shoot me an email here.

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