Becoming a Better Designer

One of the thing I enjoy the most with writing the blog and books is getting feedback from you. These comments and questions are crucial to evolving at creating better user experiences and offering extra insight into what my next steps should be. I think it even helps me continue becoming a more grounded, better person in the long run.

Last week, Raul emailed me after reading last week’s post. Here is his email (with his approval) and a longer version of my response to Raul:

Hi Anton and Happy New Year!
As always, great article.
I wanted share with you some of my struggles for 2017 too:

  • Keep doing wood crafts
  • Continue improving my guitar playing
  • Learning web design and UX

On the first two I don’t know how much of an experience you have, but I sure know you’re good at UX and design. Can you point me some good readings that’ll make me understand the basics of both? So far I’ve read The Design of Everyday Things (by Don Norman) and Thinking with type (by Ellen Lupton).

Thanks and keep spreading the UX knowledge!

Raul

Raul,

Just like wood crafts and guitar playing, there’s one thing that’ll make you a better UX-designer. Practice. Practice. Practice.

For some reason, a lot of us think UX-design – and design in general – is a much more theoretic subject than guitar playing and wood crafts when they really have much more in common. While there are theories that can strengthen your skills, the way to become a better guitar player is surely by practicing and taking time to just play around. If you love playing guitar and can play scales for hours, chances are you’ll become a great guitar player. If you love working with your hands and have the patience for doing fine detailed wood crafts, you’ll eventually become a master woodworker. And similarly, if you love playing around with design, trying new things and are OK with the fact that you are not the best, but you strive to be – one day you’ll become a master at that too.

It takes time and patience

If you want to learn to play the guitar, you wouldn’t start by tackling Thunderstruck by AC/DC. You’d start smaller. My guitar teacher made me start by learning to play Have you ever seen the rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival. And when we had wood crafts in school, we made wooden butter knives. You start small and you become a little bit better with every experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a great chat with Dan Mall for my upcoming book, Mastering Freelance. How do you become a successful and great designer like Dan? You start small and have faith there’s a lesson to be learned in everything.

Dan’s first job?

My first job when I was an intern for the first two weeks or so, my job was to take everybody’s business cards which were square. I had a manual corner rounder that I had to make everybody’s business cards with rounded corners. I did that for two weeks. I wanted to go animate and do flash stuff and design comps. No, my job was to round business cards.

Just like Ed Sheeran’s first song surely wasn’t a smash hit, Dan Mall’s first design probably wasn’t either. But you can be confident that their small steps helped them improve.

With UX design, there’s an entire world around you with things that can be improved. Not every redesign has to be a complete visual makeover of Uber. Instead, think of your daily routine. Is there a way to improve the experience of your coffee maker? What about your wardrobe? What digital tools would make your commute more pleasant? Really small things can make the biggest difference!

Don’t forget about books

With that said, I’m also a big book reader (and one of my goals for 2017 is to read even more – what are your suggestions for me?). Books are great way of expanding our minds and taking into account someone else’s experiences. With UX design I’ve found that books that necessarily aren’t about UX design are the ones that give me the biggest insights. Creating great user experiences are about understanding humans and their pain points – and finding a better solution for them.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

We are a sum of our experiences and practice strengthens what we do. Read to learn, practice to get better, and strive for mastery. Repeat daily.

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