Quantifying the role of a designer

Last week I broadcast a fairly flippant tweet...
July 30, 2017

Last week I broadcast a fairly flippant tweet:  

Design is (roughly):
5% coding
10% Sketch
10% sketching
15% talking to myself
20% post-its
40% collaborating

That morning, after a few weeks of profuse post-it note logistics I was affected with a contemplative feeling, looking back at my career and the many hats I have worn being a designer.

Without dashing out the annals of my career I can say with some confidence that I would never imagine my job role to take the shape that it is today back when I started out. Back then Design was an escape for an inward mind and I embarked on a journey many designers - regardless of their specialism - take: worry, introspection, hurt, learning, epiphanies, relationships being built and broken, and development.

Junior Designer Nate would’ve bolted out the door at the mere mention of collaborating with my peers. He would’ve slunk into his chair in meetings and passed presentations on to the more confident members of the team. Designing was something he liked to do in isolation, with the knowledge he had attained as a regular user of the web.

Fast forward to recent history and times have moved on quite a bit. I’m lucky enough to work with some of the most intelligent, forward thinking, supportive people in the business, and designing humanistic interfaces and experiences is a considered process in multidisciplinary teams.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ role for the designer in these projects and teams. You have to work to your strengths and know that your weaknesses aren’t a reflection of you as a person and that the team can work with them or around them. You’ve been employed to be the expert in your area of expertise for that project.

So I’d like to rewrite that tweet: Design is 100% collaboration.

Design is discussion. Design is research. Design is planning. Design is building. Design is testing. Design is rebuilding. Design is learning. Design is hard to quantify. And none of this Design can be done in isolation.

Of course, there are areas that you - as a designer - are going to excel in; perhaps sketching ideas, prototyping, service design or research. But - take it from me - designing in isolation leads to interfaces that will likely not work for the human at the other end.

Having said this, with collaboration comes many post-it notes. So I better get good at that.