seven-and-a-half-soft-skills-to-have-as-a-designer

Design yourself better to be able to design better.

Purva Takkar

A hoarding saying “In design we trust”

A hoarding saying “In design we trust”

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Design is the intentional solution to a problem within a set of constraints. It is everywhere and impacts all areas of our lives. New age designers are crossing fields causing the lines of conventional design to blur out. This discipline of action is calling for the value of impact over form, making it a new kind of movement.

Designers are accomplishing this by embracing user-centred design(UCD). UCD gets the designer to design with the ‘user’ first in mind and actively gets the user to interact and even co-design the product. Designers are now in a unique position to be more than just visual artists. We are now the facilitators and technicians of good design, and good design has the power to change lives.

Now you’ve been nodding positively at this all along. You’re also probably familiar with the importance of focusing on the user and how it can improve and almost guarantee the success of your design. But it’s not just the user and their interaction with the designed product that makes for a good design, it all starts with you. You need to focus inwards before you can take on any challenge and decide to work towards a problem. This new way of thinking to power a ‘new you’ can power your design. Here’s how.

Observe, reflect, build, repeat. But you already do some of this anyway. The trick is to not stop yourself from questioning everything. Tools like the ‘five Why’s’ and ‘Yes and..’ exercises will help you here.

Radical collaboration is the new buzzword that actually works, but it does not come easy. Get different teams to collaborate with you. Fill walls with post its (or digital ones, if you are environment friendly). At the same time, as a facilitator, keep reminding people of your restrictions and your boundaries for the project. Exercise your authority to say ‘no’ to keep the project on the right track. Don’t worry, it’ll lead you where you’re meant to be.

Timelines are important. Magic happens when you are organized. Design your own design session, to help you design better. This will help you set boundaries around your work and the time you invest into it, for a more balanced approach towards your project. We’ve learnt to always respect others’ time, now we need to start respecting ours.

I learnt this one early. The motto for my previous agency was “Fearless Pursuit of the Unexpected” that was pushed hard by my then Managing Director- Papri Dev. She taught me that being fearless can be rewarding. Drive your power from your sense of purpose and value for self. This will come out in your confidence in your work while presenting. Being aware of your surroundings for informed optimism will also help in keeping yourself centred at the same time.

This courage walks hand in hand with how well you articulate yourself. To get yourself across effectively, you need to actively listen to what the other person is saying. Understanding this with an open mind will help guide you to be more informed about everything around you. Design not only your products but also your meetings, presentations, and so on.

As a designer, you have a major responsibility to design for inclusivity by using diversity. Aim to bring not only your community together through your design but also the various teams that help you design it. Variation is good, especially when it helps incorporate so many different views into your design to make it better.

As a designer, one of our most essential skills is empathy. We usually show this to everyone around us, but forget to also use it for ourselves. This comes in handy most when our designs fail, and we need to be resilient and know that we have to get back up. You are only human. It’s okay. Bring in the power of yoga and take deep breaths in.

I recently attended a workshop where my takeaway was that the first prototype is always wrong. We are constantly working to improve ourselves. This is why we are not “whole” yet, and neither is this point number. Prototypes are meant to fail- but if you incorporate all of the points above, you have the ability to rise up and be better than before. After all, isn’t that what design is about- Constantly evolving.

This Restless Reinvention for a better you will impact not only your designs but also your daily life. It’s all about the relationships you foster- those with yourself, your community and your designs. It is a way of living, heck some might even call it a religion. What’s your take on it?

I’ll be happy to take your comments below. But in case you want to do a deeper dive, here are a few resource recommendations to help you on your journey: Connecting Across Differences by Jane Connor and Dian Killian; Discussing Design by Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry; IBM Design Thinking Field Guide by IBM.