Episode #111
Be Good At Lots of Things

Should you be a specialist, or a generalist?

Music and links from this episode

  1. Break by Little Glass Men
  2. Poolside by Little Glass Men
  3. Spray Paint It Gold by Little Glass Men

Line-by-line notes

  1. INTRO
  2. Over the years, the design industry has flicked between different trends
  3. The gradient and bevel era where designers were first starting to work out how to use the new features that Photoshop allowed
  4. The skeuomorphic design trend, that saw every designer making things look real life things
  5. And the current design trends: very simple and clean design that some people think has gotten too simple
  6. There’s even been trends that have dictated what a designer should be, or should do
  7. There’s been the traditional graphic designer, who mostly designs print work
  8. There’s the hybrid designer, who designs web and print stuff
  9. And there’s the more granular type of designer that’s become popular in recent years, the UI or UX design, or interaction designers. They’ve got different names every week
  10. The current trend is to tell designers that we should focus on one area of expertise. That we should be specialists and not generalists
  11. I disagree. And in this episode, I’ll tell you why.
  12. This is AADA, and I’m Craig Burgess
  14. In the past 12 years, I’ve designed lots of different stuff, and worked on lots of different projects
  15. I’ve even built apps and web systems, and dabbled with programming
  16. On top of that, I’ve even looked into video game design, and started trying to learn how to make games
  17. I didn’t get very far with learning how to make games by the way
  18. But it’s something I definitely want to return to learning about
  19. I truly do consider myself to be a hybrid designer
  20. I’m just as interested in getting my hands dirty in the technical side as I am the creative side
  21. I get equal parts enjoyment from right brain activities and left brain activities
  22. As a young designer, this kind of difference confused me
  23. I enjoyed developing stuff, so did that mean I should be a developer?
  24. But I’m a pretty good designer too, so should that mean I should be a designer?
  25. I was truly confused, and early in my career I nearly took a job as a developer
  26. Now, I’m glad I didn’t
  27. I don’t ever see my interest in lots of different topics as a designer as a bad thing at all
  28. In fact, I believe It’s only turned me into a better designer over the years
  29. Because I can understand things from technical viewpoints
  30. As well as the creative side
  31. When I’m designing something new, I fully understand what can be achieved technically, so I can push the boundaries and not hold back
  32. I think any development activities I do as well help me with my problem solving abilities
  33. Development, coding, whatever you want to call it
  34. Is a creative endeavour
  35. You are creating something
  36. And you’re solving problems
  37. And you’re communicating
  38. Anybody who tells you otherwise is just wrong
  39. To me, a good graphic designer should be able to turn their hand to designing almost anything and be able to do a good job of it
  40. It’s trendy right now to specialise
  41. To call yourself something like an interaction designer
  42. Or a UI designer
  43. But to me, all designers should be interaction designers
  44. Or UI designers
  45. Specialising as a designer in interaction is a tautology
  46. Shouldn’t everything you make be designed to be interacted with?
  47. And what about when the trend veers back away from UI or UX design?
  48. Where does that leave your very specific skills, honed so narrowly that they can only be applied to one area of design?
  49. Specialising as a designer doesn’t take into account the true makeup of the design industry
  50. Most agencies are small, and when you’re a small team you need to be multi-disciplined, and willing to work across lots of different mediums
  51. Specialising as a UI or UX designer limits your true potential to large agencies, which might not be where the most rewarding work is
  52. I don’t mean to keep bashing on UI and UX designers
  53. There are other examples of very specific designers out there
  54. But those kinds of terms are the current trends
  55. And I think these kinds of terms have developed out of a lack of standards overall in the design industry
  56. Because anybody can become a graphic designer with a copy of photoshop
  57. We feel like more specific job roles need to be developed that sound more specialist or professional
  58. That somebody can’t just wander into straight from the street
  59. But in doing so, you lose a lot of the power of actually just being a designer
  60. Deisgners have an eye and a way of thinking that can be turned to lots of mediums
  61. And designers can provide value and real business value in lots of different ways
  62. But by narrowing the role of a designer down
  63. And narrowing it very specifically to say “I just do this”
  64. Designers risk the potential of not being respected again in the real world
  65. And most importantly
  66. Who can remember all these job roles?
  67. UI, UX, interaction, usability…
  68. What’s wrong with just calling yourself a graphic designer?
  69. I believe we should challenge ourselves to not think a jack of all trades as being a bad thing
  70. Instead of being a jack of all trades and master of none
  71. Why can’t we be a jack of all trades, and master of them all?
  72. OUTRO
  73. This was AADA. I’m Craig Burgess.
  74. Music featured in this episode was
    1. Break by Little Glass Men
    2. Poolside by Little Glass Men
    3. Spray Paint It Gold by Little Glass Men
  75. askadesignernaything.com/ep111
  76. I’m back tomorrow for another episode of Ask a Designer Anything

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