What makes a good designer?

Towards Tomorrow DesignExperience is at the heart of everything a designer does. I believe you get better at design as you develop your skills. At the same time, not everyone can be a great designer. We all have our own unique talents. I admit I’m never going to be a singer, a magician or a ballerina. I just do not have those unique talents. You need both talent and experience to be a good designer. It helps to work with people you like, on something you really care about.

Good design conveys information and communicates ideas. Poor design impairs this communication by getting in the way and sometimes making the receiver ask, “what is that?” Whether creating a poster, brochure, logo, or website, the design should enhance the message. A good rule to follow is the Physician’s dictum: “First do no harm.” The message must be clear. Key design tools include: observation, imagination, and configuration. Here are some essential skills needed:

Listening skills a way of listening that focuses entirely on what the other person is saying and confirms understanding of both the content of the message and the emotions and feelings underlying the message to ensure that understanding is accurate. This enables one to get users talking about their issues and concerns.

Visualization skills allow one to understand how the pieces might fit together; everything we do begins as a thought. Every action, every word, every human creation exists first in our imagination. The ability to see things before they actually happen is what enables us to pursue our dreams and ultimately achieve them. In fact, the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen. Wonder what could be and make it happen.

Analytical skills allow one to track the data and look for overlaps or holes. It gives a sense of the current state of the technology and what is implementable or not. Creativity vs analytics = design thinking.

Discipline, these skills need to be put into practice to fully develop over time. There are literally dozens of www.mcdezigns.com designs you’ll never see, because I was never satisfied with them. But to this day, one of my favorite activities is cracking open Photoshop or Illustrator, opening a fresh blank image, and trying to make something beautiful. I’m not always successful, but it’s the process that I find incredibly rewarding and opens my eyes to new processes, practices and tricks.

Self-confidence The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assuredness in one’s personal judgment, ability, power, etc. Promise yourself, no matter how difficult the problem life throws at you, that you will try as hard as you can to help yourself. Self-promoting your work is crucial and you must have confidence to fulfill this task.

Sharing and Humility I want to work with someone that has seen and made so many mistakes that they have an ever-present sense of the fragility of any design. Leave egos and negativity at the door. One of us is not smarter then all of us. Happiness can be derived out of sharing. Sharing can give you feedback to improve.

Empathy Falling at the last hurdle is such a common failure. You just feel like you can’t give any more so you give up, just at the moment you should be sticking to your guns and ensuring that things don’t fall through the gaps. Managing to galvanize yourself and your colleagues to make it to the end of a project with head held high is critical. Inspirational leaders make that easier.

That’s my checklist for a good designer — what’s yours? What can you add?