Ask DN: What makes a Designer become jaded?

over 6 years ago from , Designer @ Google | Author @ O'Reilly | Podcaster @ DesignReview

Hello from the Design Review Podcast!


We were chatting last night for our upcoming episode and its been a really interesting topic. We would love to hear what you all think and what your experiences have been.

What makes a Designer loose their edge?

For some designers its becoming apathetic. For others they become defensive and argumentative. While others become aggressive to the other designers around them.

I don't think it is always the designers fault, sometimes its being in the wrong environment for so long it wears you down slowly.

Some signs we recognized: Getting defensive during critiques:

  • Sloppy work that leaves out details

  • Citing experience/seniority/job titles instead of giving logical reasons

  • Argumentative/lack of compromise

  • Loud sighing/eye rolling/quiet laughter

  • Dishonesty/lack of communication

  • Going behind the team’s back with “secret projects”

  • Cynicism


  • Ryan McLaughlinRyan McLaughlin, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    The biggest thing for me is when someone's ego or title dictates design decisions without any reasoning or data. Having someone, particularly outside the team, swoop in and force their opinion while ignoring the rationale born from a solid design process is a total morale killer. It breeds the thought, "Why am I even bothering with the process when it's going to get ignored?"

    32 points
    • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago


      We talked about this in our discussion last night as well and the people who do that are also jaded I think. Its sorta like that saying "A bad apple spoils the whole bunch"

      They get worn down over time and because of that they start getting aggressive or defensive and throw their title around.

      0 points
      • Ryan McLaughlinRyan McLaughlin, over 6 years ago

        I think people sometimes make it a "me vs. them" concept as well, which is mistaken. A design solution stands on its own and a designer is simply an agent for it. People don't understand that and think it's the designer pushing their own agenda. A good designer pushes "good design's" agenda.

        6 points
    • Andrew ZimmermanAndrew Zimmerman, over 6 years ago

      Totally get this sentiment.

      You may want to check out Spool's "Preventing the Executive Swoop and Poop with Design Sprints". He blames a lack of shared understanding and provides options to resolve it. One may not be able to get the executive to show up, but inviting him may eventually engender trust.

      1 point
    • Weston VierreggerWeston Vierregger, over 6 years ago

      I came here intended to reply "bad management", but I like your version better. I think this falls under "bad management". The key to a healthy, productive, and creative design team is for all the members to feel like they have an equal voice in the decisions being made for the product. Title-whores are poison with this kind of team, IMO. And, never forget: uninspired designers make uninspired products.

      2 points
  • Tony GinesTony Gines, over 6 years ago

    Not giving the designer ownership of the project. If they don't feel responsible for the success of the project, they will likely put minimal effort into it.

    15 points
  • Yasen DimovYasen Dimov, over 6 years ago

    Marketing people and clients...

    11 points
  • Evan KnightEvan Knight, over 6 years ago

    Get a little apathetic when people say "CompanyX does it like this..." almost hinting we should mimic their design. I'm all for leveraging cool stuff, but that sentiment can make design feel cheap.

    7 points
  • Joe ShoopJoe Shoop, over 6 years ago

    Reading the other comments here, and based on my own experience, it seems like it all falls back to someone having an ego. Maybe its you and you start thinking a coworker's work is subpar. Maybe somebody else thinks their work is better than yours.

    Maybe you have the most experience, and you feel like you are the best designer on the team. And you start to feel like the rest of the team is holding you back, and you get a little cynical, stop trying so hard, and your coworkers think you are kind of a dick.

    In that old saying "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room", maybe 'the wrong room' is a metaphor for having the wrong mindset. Maybe the quote is actually about keeping your own ego in check, keeping an open mind and realizing that there is always something to be learned from your peers. That every single person you ever meet can teach you something.

    If you take the more literal version of that quote, and you're constantly rank-sorting yourself vs others, thinking "who are all these idiots?", then you'll get pretty jaded pretty quick.

    3 points
  • Liam SarsfieldLiam Sarsfield, over 6 years ago


    2 points
  • Chris LChris L, over 6 years ago

    Hey all. This is Chris (the other host on the show).

    The comments here are really interesting. Thanks to everyone so far!

    (That is all...)

    2 points
  • Account deleted over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Not being open to other styles, fields of work, technology, cultural trends etc.

    Everything can be inspiration/ visual ammo a designer can keep in their back pocket to call upon when solving a specific problem for a client. I think a designer looses their edge when they box themselves into a stylistic corner then starts complaining.

    2 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, over 6 years ago

    I think it's blue-ribbon kids who've never had a tough time. By tough time I do not mean a single parent raising 123 kids, but just generally facing adversity. Whether in work or in life or in sports. The premise that you are not the whole person on the team, or the cog in the machine or whatever. The general premise that one person contributes to a larger piece and things are often a cumulative effort derived of a bunch of individual efforts.

    I think folks who do not understand that are jaded. And in this case, jaded designers.

    2 points
  • Mark FenskeMark Fenske, over 6 years ago

    I worked closely with the design team at my old job as a Front End Developer and the Design team lead was particularly jaded, cynical and downright lazy with the designs we would get back from him.

    I would suspect that there's a ton of reasons that make a designer jaded, but from my experience, I would say it usually boils down to the employer/client. With this company in particular, it was a website mill, churning out sites as fast as they could sell them. The owner had a particular phrase he'd tell the designers which was to "McDonaldize" the sites. So not only did the designers have to listen to the store owners terrible design suggestions for hours between calls and emails, but they also weren't given any real chance to create because it was forced down their throats that they need to stamp these things out as fast as they possibly can. With such a creative stifling environment, I can imagine why they just stopped giving a crap.

    1 point
    • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago

      Yeah that will do it. :(

      1 point
      • Mark FenskeMark Fenske, over 6 years ago

        Yeah, unsurprisingly, a lot of those guys (and others like myself) all left that company. The lead designer I was specifically talking about in that post was actually one of the first employees in the company which ended up growing to be a multi-million dollar revenue business and making it to the Inc 500. Even with all the years he was there, he ended up quitting about 6 months after I left. He left to go be the lead designer at a smaller boutique web development company and I ended up moving to another country to join a startup tech company called Desygner.

        I get that work is work and it can be hard to find, but as a designer, I think its absolutely vital to not get stuck with a company that actually views creativity as a negative.

        1 point
  • Scott Burns, over 6 years ago

    For me it's lack of a challenge, when that sets in I tend to look to move on to a new agency, I always think if I'm not being challenged then I'm not going to improve, so will go looking for that challenge elsewhere.

    Awkward clients that don't less to evidence or reason can be another one...

    1 point
  • Charlie McCullochCharlie McCulloch, over 6 years ago

    I take issue with equating "sloppy work that leaves out details" with bad design, especially in an agile environment. Expecting somebody to have all the answers, all the time, is precisely the kind of attitude that encourages egotistical decision makers to rise to the top.

    1 point
    • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago

      I addressed this concern in the podcast we recorded. Should be out soon.

      I agree with you, what I am talking about specifically though is a sign someone is getting jaded. Also its more sloppier work than is expected because they have become apathetic and disengaged from their work.

      Hope that helps clear it up!

      0 points
  • Nathan NNathan N, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Going from office to office and seeing how everyone hates/talks shit about their clients. The grass is greener illusion was shattered for me real fast (6-8 months of contracting for different companies).

    edit: To clarify, toxic work environments can make me feel jaded at times.

    1 point
    • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago

      Agreed but what are you referring to? Were discussing why designers loose their passion.

      0 points
      • Nathan NNathan N, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

        Sorry, this (my original comment) started to make me jaded. After talking with a manager about it I realized that it isn't about the work you get but rather the work you do and the effort/energy you put into it. You can't let other people's negativity influence you.

        Expanding on my original comment seeing toxicity like that really makes you wonder if you can find people to work with who aren't that way and it casts a gloomy shade on things.

        edit: grammar and restructuring

        2 points
  • Chris CChris C, over 6 years ago

    Are you saying that leaving out details is a sign of someone losing their edge?

    0 points
    • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago

      It can be, yes. Its part of the designer loosing interest/passion in their work.

      2 points
      • Chris CChris C, over 6 years ago

        Oh ok - was just trying to clarify. That's been a pretty big sign for me but it's more temporary than "losing my edge" I think. If I'm doing a crit/review and I notice a lot of things are missing or if I should have caught something earlier on in the process that was obvious, 9 times out of 10 it means I need to re-engage or step away from the project for a bit to recharge.

        1 point
      • Chris CChris C, over 6 years ago

        Also, not sure why it always sounds like you're talking away from the microphone or just a bit muffled in the podcasts. What kind of audio setup are you using?

        0 points
        • Jonathan Shariat, over 6 years ago

          Thanks for the feedback!

          Was it only in the last podcast or in all of them? In the latest episode I had to record outside my office so I didn't have my good microphone.

          0 points
          • Chris CChris C, over 6 years ago

            It also sounded a bit in-and-out on The Power of Saying "No" as well and a few others if I remember correctly. It's not a huge issue to me – just making an observation =]

            0 points