Dear Designer,

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to every designer?

This question came out of conversation I had with a relatively new designer last week. It was an “informational interview” where the person was just looking for some more info about being a professional designer and do a little networking. (All of you entry level designers should be doing these if you’re not.)Their final question was a really good one and it made me think I should share the answer here too.

What is the one piece of advice you feel like every designer needs to get at some point in their career?*

*This is not an exact quote

It took me a minute to think through all the advice I have given to folks in the last ten to twelve years about being a professional designer or researcher. If you’ve ever received a portfolio review from me, done any mentoring, or worked with me in the last decade you will have probably heard me say this. I honestly think it’s the most important thing for UX folks:

You should always know why you’re making something, and you should always be able to explain what it is for.

It seems really simple, and maybe even a little obvious, but you’d be surprised how many folks working in UX can’t answer this question about most of the stuff they do every day. This is all about intention. As a UX professional every choice you make should be intentional. What does this mean?

If you’re a designer, you should know why you’re making the artifacts you are. Are they helping you figure something out? What? Are they helping you communicate your ideas? How?

If you’re a researcher, you should always know why you’re using a specific data gathering, analysis, or reporting method. What questions are they helping you answer? What story are they helping you tell?

If your answer is something like, “Because that’s what designers/researchers do” you aren’t thinking deeply enough. You’d be surprised at how many people working today can’t answer this question about their own work if you ask them.

Being able to answer this question, at any time, about your work is often the difference between being good and being great.

Until next time 🤙