I’m a Better Designer Because of these Things.

Human interest, above all.

Here’s the thing: I typically don’t like telling people what to do. It is not in my nature, I was never great at it. When I think about it, that probably is rooted deeply into my introverted nature as a person. Most people are at their best when they are independent, and free. I am no different.

You can imagine how this trait brings this strange, almost contrarian environment for me professionally because as a designer working in tech, rarely is it that I ever work alone and I do think that this a good thing, in this case and so me being me, I’ve decided to publish these compiled tips that have worked for me, and have made an impact in the past/present works I’ve been most proud of.

This may not apply to everyone’s workflow, I do understand. I strive to be as agnostic as I can be when I speak about process and it’s clearly open for criticism, or improvements just like any living documentation. Like most professions, there’s a lot of friction in being a designer in this era of technology and humanity. Now, I can either be paralyzed by anxiety or learn how to be better by helping myself and others (I hope) be better. This is me choosing the latter.

  1. Write. A lot. For yourself, and others.Myself, and countless other designers out there have written, spoken and constantly are advocating for pushing writing as design’s unicorn skill. I cannot stress this enough especially for UX because it’s important to have strong communication skills and writing is one of the best ways to do that. The better we are at communicating through words, the more effective we will be at designing products. It’s high time we retire Lorem Ipsum. You know we can do better than that.
  2. Put the story at the front-row-and-center of your work. — Whether it’s designing a scenario, making sense of data, creating a UI from scratch, or presenting a prototype to stakeholders, it pays to be mindful of the context of what, how, why you’re doing what you’re doing and for whom. Steve Jobs and Jony Ive famously believe in this technique, which in my opinion, is one of the attributes that make Apple products the best in the world from a design and consumer perspective. NNg Nielsen has an article about this as well. Storytelling is incredibly important not just for your work but for your career path as well. Ultimately, you are designing your own career. I can’t think of a better story to work with for a lifetime that that.
  3. Design with data and emotions in mind — There is a great book that talks about this profoundly and it’s a highly recommended reading for anyone who is working in design. I am reminded to read it again. It has a lot to do with the power of storytelling (#2) and why most successful designers are very good at what they do. This talk by Adam Mosseri (of Instagram) about being data informed is excellent.
  4. Read and explore other topics that capture your curiosity. — Naval said this best with this tweet of his: Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.” which is one of the best things I’ve ever read on Twitter. The beauty of living (and working) in 2019 is that education is accessible and I don’t need to elaborate that any further. If you’re a naturally curious person, this is probably the best time to be alive for all the wonderful things you can learn, or read about is a few clicks away. It’s fantastic, and even better when you can live it, apply it to your work, this is where the magic happens. Don’t just read design books. Explore other areas that might be of interest to you but you were always afraid or intimidated to study: economics, cognitive science, marketing, advertising, fine arts, computer science, transportation et cetera. You would be surprised about how that has a lot to do with whatever design project you are working on at the moment.
  5. Avoid mindless distractions. — I can’t get to where I want to be, to the kind of mastery I would want to accomplish if I am distracted by things that aren’t really doing anything for me: painful hungovers, work politics, countless parties (been partying since I was 17, I think I’ve seen enough), low quality forms of entertainment, jobs that never go anywhere. Every time I find myself missing any of these, I would remember to snap back and think how shitty my work was then. To say that they were not connected is just foolish and naive. I have not felt flow in such a long time because of worthless distractions, I assume. I just want to create things, learn things and never stop thinking about them. Everything else, outside of family and a few close relationships, is a distraction I probably don’t need. History can back me up on that.
  6. Care about people. — Passionately enough to actually do the work beyond the pixels. Learn how to interview users, educate yourself (and others) on accessibility, read about human-interest stories and its correlation to UX, design with context and people in mind (not just components), encourage for UX as a career to reluctant but talented designers-to-be, treat your colleagues with the utmost respect and kindness. The list could go on and on but the general thesis this: we have enough jerks, or unkind people in this world, the less you can contribute to that, the better the collaboration will be and the more we can actually focus on the important stuff, the problem solving kind of stuff.

Ultimately, you can read all the books you want, follow all the tips you can get your hands on but if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for you. The whole idea is to find that center, that flow, that infectious mindset that makes you do things you’re most proud of. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: there’s no one-size-fits-all template on how to be a better designer. It’s a recipe that probably takes a lifetime to perfect and that’s the fun part of it all. We don’t know where things will be so we may as well design them now while we still can, as ethically and as creatively as we can be. Now is the best time as any to start contemplating on this.

Things that are currently helping me become a better designer even more:

Media: Mind of a chef, Netflix — I will write a separate post on the overlapping qualities between chefs and designers. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately

Books: How To Win Friends and Influence People for work, How Me Tight for personal, The Startup of You for long-term career thinking.

Blog: Love her ever since someone recommended me her book and have been following her writing since then, A Framework For Making Better Product Decisions by Laura Klein, this article as well: 52 Research Terms You Need To Know As A UX Designer.

Find me on the web

Website: http://nikkiespartinez.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lifeboats1990/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikki-espartinez-ba78b362/

Thank you for your time.

On the intersection of life and work. No in-betweens. http://nikkiespartinez.com/projects

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