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I’ve been told 5 years marks an achievement in a career, and I want to share my everyday observations about how I’ve become a better designer by watching others around me and learning good behaviors from my peers. I’ve learned many of these from missteps in my career, and I’ve kept them short to show how I’ve came across these (please feel free to leave a comment if you would like me to elaborate more on some of these behaviors).

Strengthening design behavior

    • Know the advantages and disadvantages of each tool at your disposal; be prepared to throw away what has been done and start fresh if it isn’t working
    • White-boarding (and pen and paper) activities work the best for rapid iteration; it also works well to allow others to help evolve, change, and defend design thinking
    • Take the time to keep learning about design, process, and (above all) people – it will help to improve yourself and the team you work with
    • I’ve been more successful in design conversation with peers and other teams by learning how to scope what I say to my audience
    • User experience can be a tough profession; those that are successful not only change the people who use the product, but those who help to shape the product
    • Each human relationship and interaction is valuable – even if it doesn’t seem like it at the current moment
    • One art to this profession is to know how to scope each activity one needs to get a problem from ambiguous grey area to design solution; each time I do this, I know I have to be comfortable knowing that I may not have enough time to do everything

Behavior changes to allow design to fuel business and development

  • Be able to articulate any needed information to start (or impact) design activities and how they will help other teams on the project
  • When projects start, if there aren’t any requirements, use your user research skills to help the stakeholders get the best start
  • When design is efficient (from a process perspective), the other teams who use design can keep their activities going
  • When working with other people (especially designers), if critique sessions aren’t structured and focused, the design conversation is unfocused and there won’t be as much feedback that can be used to update a design
  • A designer can be empowered if he/she can pick up new tools and technologies and use them to understand how design will be implemented
  • If there is an opportunity to be brought in early into the design process, take it – there will be more valuable iterations and conversations that can happen to produce a better design than when design is only needed to put a face on a system

Advice from my own design missteps

  • Re-frame the push-back from others into positive conversation about what can and cannot be done to assuage design concerns
  • Not everyone sees design in the same manner (e.g. some people see design as a check in a list); be able to find what others need from you to make the process smooth for everyone
  • Be able to restate your design rationale in non-design terms, as many people do not understand things we put into the interface (e.g. affordance, semiotics, touch targeting) to make for a good user experience
  • Don’t assume everyone has the same definition of “good” when it comes to design – be able to define this up front
  • Businesses work under time constraints – try not to underestimate how long it will take to produce your definition of a good design
  • Don’t assume that the financial cost of making a good design doesn’t matter; if it was your money, how much would you spend?
  • Be willing to say that the design isn’t working and be able to say why with confidence, even when the conversation is rocky (for me, this is one aspect I’m still learning how to do eloquently)
Casey Addy
Casey M Addy is a user-experience practitioner focusing on data-driven design thinking and rapid prototyping via pen and paper. He also likes to turn paper concepts into interactive stories to help teams articulate and validate design thinking.
Casey Addy

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