Optimism in Designers, Developers and Managers – Part 3

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If you’re just joining us now, be sure to check out Part 1, where we explored the inherent optimism of designers, developers and managers, and what specific elements of our professions increase our sense of optimism. In Part 2, we talked with real people in development and management roles to learn what leads them to feel optimistic about their work life. Now we’ll take a look at how designers feel about their work.

Personally, I’m most optimistic at the beginning of a project – the sky’s the limit and anything is possible. Both the scope and the quality of the end product are big factors in my overall mindset. It’s more thrilling AND challenging to be responsible for the look and feel of a site or product that will be seen and used by millions than it is to design that “mom & pop” brochure site (which ends up only being used by Mom and Pop). Building something with clip art and last year’s recycled content is a world away from being given top shelf photography, video, typography and content.

Similar to a developer’s happy place (and perhaps a bit counter-intuitive to non-designers), many designers thrive on being provided up front with the comprehensive constraints and affordances of a project. If design is solving challenges, it stands to reason that knowing what you have to work with is essential to devising a solution.

Having clear insight into the underlying strategy of a design challenge is rewarding, since that can shift the conversation from “Let’s make it green – green is my favorite color” to “how can we encourage users to interact with this component and its deeply rewarding awesomeness?”

Being able (and ideally encouraged) to make the design one’s own is a surefire way to kindle true passion. I, like designers and artists of all kinds, strive all my life to develop, maintain and grow my own personal style. When allowed a little bit of leeway to do so in projects (within project constraints!), I guarantee the results will be noticeably more effective and ultimately fulfilling for designers and the users alike.

Let’s hear from some other designers to get their perspective:

Hannah:

“The thing that makes me most optimistic as a designer are the new possibilities I am constantly finding. I’m a pretty old-school style artist, so when I started working with web-design, I basically thought it would steal my soul. Instead, I’m constantly discovering ways for the new technology on my iphone or desktop to enhance the things I make by hand and vis versa…

…I really love getting a project with pretty strict requirements and then finding ways to iterate and brainstorm mixing and matching different types of media until we find the best possible solution.”


Jeff:

“Good design solves problems. Great design enriches people’s lives…Finding ways to enrich people’s lives is our optimal goal.

It’s the note between the notes, it’s the implied lines of a drawing, It’s the way a coffee shop meticulously roasts and serves its coffee. None of these things are easy, you have to work at it and learn from it. But once you achieve it, the payoff is that much more rewarding.

That’s why as a designer I get up every day and do what I do — I don’t stop at solving problems, I seek to inspire, to put a smile on someone’s face, to truly enrich people’s lives. And when you focus on these things the negatives fade away and become non-issues.“

Jason:
“I feel optimistic when a project is going smoothly (new ideas, reasonable timeline, making deadlines, portfolio piece, etc.) – when there’s room for creativity (hello there, client. Here’s what you asked for – but I also thought about this, that and these) – when trying something new or learning something new – when the team gels (the larger project team not just other designers.)”

One shared sentiment from these discussions that resonated with me is that a project’s scope and restrictions can make or break how the project affects one’s overall sense of optimism. An assignment can be seen both as a crazy cool gig or as a tortuous chore, depending simply on a few details. A limitation isn’t a bad thing – it can drive creativity!

As designers and as managers, striving to keep the excitement and creativity of a project intact isn’t something you can leave to chance. Ensuring the requirements are clear and the tools or assets required have been provided is often what separates a great team producing top-notch products from that same team churning out mediocre designs..

Next time, we’ll explore the flip side to this optimism thing. What makes us pessimistic and hopeless? What makes us bang our heads against the wall and groan in frustration? Stay tuned to find out.

Note: also published on GiantUX.com

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