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Can everyone be a designer?

over 1 year ago from

It's a simple question for which I am trying to get a clear answer to: can everyone be a designer?

It's a fact that everyone has opinions when it comes to design - clients, partners, mothers, grandmothers, uncles, cousins, etc. However, I don't think that design is based on opinions.

So, apart from some technical knowledge, why is the designer the authority on design? What makes a designer different from the common mortal?

58 comments

  • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, over 1 year ago

    Look at the majority of products that doesn't have a professional designer or some design thinking involved and it becomes pretty apparent where their value lies.

    That said, designers can derive valuable input and inspiration from anything and anyone.

    Most folks can also catch a football but probably aren't going up for the draft.

    22 points
    • Sandro Cantante, over 1 year ago

      Easily, I also can tell apart designs that were made by designers from those that weren't, but what makes that difference?

      As you've said, most people can catch a football, but they don't even try to become professionals, because they are aware that they wouldn't be able to do it at an acceptable level.

      What happens with design is that most people (who are not designers) think they know better and quickly judge design decisions. Why are they (more often than not) wrong?

      0 points
      • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, over 1 year ago

        Well, aesthetic preference is a very personal thing just built into people and everyone makes design choices every day, for better or worse (i.e. fashion, jewelry, etc.) so it just happens to be a communal activity. But again, that doesn't discount what is arguably good fashion, or good fashion designers.

        So you filter out the signal and noise. Most feedback I receive from non-designers is actually very good, but knowing the difference between good and bad feedback is a skill any good designer should be able to utilize.

        3 points
        • Sandro Cantante, 1 year ago

          It's interesting to think about design in such a general way, but in the same way that a fashion designer and a web designer practice very different jobs and wouldn't be able to replace each other, people who make small daily design choices don't know everything about communication design because of it.

          I am finding that patience and capacity to deal with feedback one of the better qualities that a designer can have. However, in some cases that I've experienced, especially in graphic design, the feedback isn't very helpful and just creates unnecessary obstacles in providing a good solution for their needs.

          0 points
      • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, 1 year ago

        As if people don't judge athletes the same way.

        Ever spoken to any supporter, ever, of any sport, anywhere in the world, ever? :)

        3 points
        • Sandro Cantante, 1 year ago

          Yeah, that's a great comparison, as everyone also thinks they know best what an athlete should or shouldn't do, without considering what's behind any decision they take. The main difference is that athletes are not competing for clients and don't have to justify their choices to supporters.

          0 points
  • Phil RauPhil Rau, over 1 year ago

    I think Ratatouille said it best: "I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: "Anyone can cook." But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."

    So, no. Not everyone's cut out to be a designer. There are some people who simply do not have an eye for it. You can improve your eye for good or bad design, but not everyone can improve it enough to be a successful designer.

    7 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      Really liked the Ratatouille reference and I also think that it applies to this situation.

      Regarding the second statement - how can you improve your eye for good or bad design? I would think that that particular skill was the one that meant you were cut out to be a designer.

      0 points
      • Denis RojcykDenis Rojcyk, over 1 year ago

        You can only get better at anything by actually doing it.

        1 point
      • Phil RauPhil Rau, 1 year ago

        Practice. Expose yourself to design work that others like. Collect examples of design you like. Eventually your brain can learn from a wide enough sample. Its improvable for anyone, but if you have an eye to begin with, you'll go a lot further because its easier.

        0 points
  • T LT L, over 1 year ago

    Most people will be overprotective because they think what they do is unique and only a few selected people can do it, but the truth is with enough practice anyone can be anything. You might not be the best, but you can be better than average.

    Majority of people don't care about their performance, and it is the main reason they don't achieve mastery.

    7 points
    • Oliver Swig, over 1 year ago

      Inherent talent is also a major factor. Some people just have the talent and 'get it'. Most people will never get beyond mediocrity no matter how much they practice.

      0 points
      • , over 1 year ago

        I am something in between both of your opinions. I don't think that you can be the best in anything if you try hard enough, nor do I think that you won't get past mediocrity if you really put yourself to it.

        In most cases, it's not a case of not caring about performance, but not having the capacity to understand where your effort should be applied. If you spend your days trying to be a pro in Illustrator, you'll never be a better designer, no matter how good you are with that particular tool.

        There's so much more to it, undoubtedly, but what exactly is it?

        0 points
        • Adam WAdam W, 1 year ago

          Being skilled with a particular tool is not the same as being a good designer or illustrator, though there is overlap.

          Design is the purposeful application of creativity to a problem, and being creative is all about being able to draw novel connections from a large body of experience. The more experience you have, the more readily you can draw those connections to solve a problem. Practicing at specific skills will only help to manifest that creativity more efficiently. Focus of attention in this area is very important!

          We are all products of our environment, background and experience. Anyone can be a designer, just as anyone can be creative. It just might take a lot more effort for some to collect the right set of skills and mental models required for any particular definition of "designer."

          0 points
  • Oliver Swig, over 1 year ago

    Sure everyone can become a designer in some capacity. Most will be shitty designers. This applies to every job.

    5 points
  • Vince RenfroVince Renfro, over 1 year ago

    Yes

    3 points
  • Brett BergeronBrett Bergeron, over 1 year ago

    I think anyone has the capacity to become skilled at something they're passionate about. So, I would say yes—anyone can educate themselves on the process of making and selling software and become a designer.

    There are a lot of things that can distinguish someone as a valuable designer. Here, I'm actually reading your question as: How is a designer's opinion more valuable than the opinions of the user?

    I think a good designer is able to hear, interpret, and balance the many, many opinions held by a product's audience. Finding a way to interpret all of those opinions is the most challenging and important role of the designer. This takes an open mind, curiosity, intuition, critical thinking, and strong communication skills. There's a vast world of practical and academic knowledge that a designer should be sorting through as a product goes through each step of its lifecycle. Of course, at some point the technical skill is a big part of that.

    So, I would say what separates a designer from a user is their knowledge, experience, and commitment to solving problems in both a human and business context. I really think anyone can be a great designer if they want to be.

    Hope this helps.

    2 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      I thought about that before as well and reading it now in your words now makes sense. Being able to hear, interpret and balance opinions is, indeed, a great quality that a designer needs to be successful. However, that's part of dealing with a problem, which I don't know why's so common.

      Why aren't the designer's knowledge and experience more widely recognized? I've seen, on many occasions, clients arguing that a given design option is better than the one that the designer suggests, but they probably wouldn't question the authority of a doctor or a plumber, for instance.

      0 points
  • Todd FTodd F, over 1 year ago

    Everyone can be a photographer by taking a photo with their phone, but that doesn't mean that their photos are any good. In the same way it's the photographer's eye that makes their work valuable or not, the designer's aesthetic eye, combined with some craftsmanship in making things are what make the difference between being able to access and operate the tools at a rudimentary level and doing actual design work.

    2 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      I wouldn't say that someone who takes a photo with their phone is a photographer, in the same way that someone who draws a picture on Paint is not a designer or a painter.

      In any case, the hardest question to answer here is: what's the designer aesthetic eye? Is he born with it and it's not obtainable in any other way? That would mean that no, not everyone can be a designer.

      0 points
      • Alvaro Ruiz, 1 year ago

        Everyone who takes a photo is a photographer. Everyone who design something is a designer. To be good or better at doing is something else. A good designer should have the skill to analyse and point why a bad design doesn't work. Usually bad skill are because are linked to subjective opinions. Understanding functionality and really solving problem with design is the key.

        0 points
  • Paul Gates, 1 year ago

    Worrying about WHO is an authority is a waste of time. Does that make your design process better? Does it produce better outcomes?

    Someone who is highly qualified and skillful in design could give you unproductive opinions. They focus on something trivial, they make assumptions, or they have some malignant bias.

    Someone who is not at all qualified and knows nothing about designing things could give you very productive opinions. They understand the problem you're solving deeply, they are the intended audience for the solution, or they are skillful in describing their reactions to your thing.

    It would seem like a much better use of your mental energy to focus on how to get useful feedback from people, and setting expectations as to how that feedback is handled.

    1 point
  • Hayden MillsHayden Mills, over 1 year ago

    Yes

    1 point
  • Clarke HyrneClarke Hyrne, over 1 year ago

    In addition to technical knowledge: Experience, learning, skill/talent, continued professional development in the field, mindset

    Anyone can do it. Not everyone should (like a lot of professions).

    And it's easy to have opinions about design since it's more visible/apparent than other things (Client: "No, Mrs. Engineer, this architecture should be MVVC, not MVP. And I want you to use functional programming.")

    1 point
    • , over 1 year ago

      Painting is also visual, but usually, people don't feel like they can do it better than the painter. They may like or dislike, but they don't give their opinion so usually about ways in which it could be better.

      When you're designing a website, for instance, there are always opinions concerning typefaces, specific elements, colors... there's always someone who thinks that he knows better than the designer, without recognizing any authority.

      0 points
      • Clarke HyrneClarke Hyrne, 1 year ago

        I think it's because people are cultured/socialized to talk differently about art and about websites. Still, there are tons of people who talk about which things they like better or prefer, or "my kid could paint that", etc. And I bet if I asked my painter/illustrator friends, they'd have a few horror stories to share, too.

        Also, it's interesting that you keep using the word "authority." Authority is not something objective; it's a quality of the power relationship between 2+ parties.

        When you say "there's always someone who thinks he knows better than the designer," I'd say it's less that the designer doesn't have authority, but that there's something in the relationship preventing the other person from recognizing the designer's authority.

        Anyway, from my point of view (shaped by my own experience, usually in-house), our authority isn't final say/veto power, but more consultative or challenging.

        0 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, over 1 year ago

    Design is a Craft, learnable like any other. Intuitive understanding of Aestheticism are what people call Talent in this Context and that might help to learn that Craft - but it remains something that anyone can learn.

    1 point
    • , over 1 year ago

      The understanding of Aestheticism is something that is not learnable?

      0 points
      • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, over 1 year ago

        that's not what I meant.

        Intuitive understanding of Aestheticism are what people call Talent in this Context and that might help to learn that Craft

        I just wanted to say that what people call "Talent" in the Context of Design is that. When people talk about a talented designer, that is usually the property they want to describe. Not that it is not learnable. Of course it is learnable.

        I am of the strong conviction that talent is just something that can make learning a new skill more accessible.

        0 points
  • Jaha Ganiev, over 1 year ago

    Sure! Everybody can be a designer but I assume it'll take more time than becoming programmers. I believe efforts, pains and learning design basis in deep will bring to great success. Good luck ;)

    0 points
  • Louis BLouis B, over 1 year ago

    Show your design work online and it seems that yes, everyone IS a designer.

    0 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      That was part of my point, with the exception of the needed technical knowledge, most think that they know better about design choices. What I am trying to understand is why those people undervalue designers so much.

      0 points
  • Ray MartinRay Martin, over 1 year ago

    Sure, but the differentiating factor, in my opinion, is taste. I feel like anyone can "design" (e.g. execute) but taste is intrinsic—something you're born with and develop from a young age.

    0 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      So, you would say that a good designer is, in some way, gifted? Isn't experience and taste obtainable by anyone?

      0 points
      • Ray MartinRay Martin, 1 year ago

        Not necessarily but do think different people are born with a penchant for good taste — not sure what it is exactly but it's ultimately developed through exposure. Obviously my $.02

        0 points
  • Antek GrzankaAntek Grzanka, over 1 year ago

    Everyone who likes good design can be a designer. If someone doesn't care then not. Applicable to any field.

    0 points
  • Adam WAdam W, over 1 year ago

    I think your definition of what a designer is, is too narrow. We don't work in a vacuum, and our product/output is not for no one. Anyone who has any level of influence over the product IS a designer.

    0 points
    • barry saundersbarry saunders, 1 year ago

      Do you think so? A janitor in a hospital has an impact on the health of a patient but that doesn't make them a doctor.

      1 point
      • Adam WAdam W, 1 year ago

        I do, and this is a good analogy for comparison. Let me try to unpack this a little bit.

        If you consider the “health of a patient” or “design of a product” the final outcome, then all contributing members are equally important because that specific final outcome is dependent on exactly those contributions. All contributing members are working towards that goal, directly or not.

        Operating under a certain set of skills or responsibilities does not exhaust what it means to be a designer (or a doctor, or a janitor, or a writer, or a manager). That is just one way a designer can be, one way of accessing that area of the process. So, if to create a product is to design it, and there are many ways to access that process and make meaningful contributions, then everyone who contributes in reaching that specific final product/outcome is a designer.

        Titles (such as designer in the previously-mentioned narrow sense) are only useful in labelling what kind of experience you have had, and coloring expectations for what you do on a daily basis.

        To your point though, acquiring the title of doctor requires a very specific and intensive educational and career path. Design, as a profession, is a lot more open and generally accessible, and there are lot more angles from which you can meaningfully contribute. But when you frame those titles as the outcome of their work, then it cracks open the definition, because the process has many dimensions and points of entry.

        0 points
        • barry saundersbarry saunders, 1 year ago

          I can see your reasoning, but I don't fully agree.

          We use job titles to recognise what we do and what we are responsible for, not just the final outcome of the work. That fact all contributing members work towards the health of a patient defines the mission of the business, not the individual. A janitor's focus is cleaning, and they can do that in a business that creates patient health, or stock market trades, or entertainment, etc. Similarly a developer may have the core focus of building reusable, efficient code, a goal which may be counterposed to the goal of providing a good user experience. If I as a designer ask the developer and product owner for a feature that, say, adds more complexity to the code but solves for a particular user need, in that moment we're negotiating from our respective positions of expertise. We may all have the overall goal of providing a good product, but within that we have different goals such as user experience (design), code simplicity (developer) and ROI (PO).

          There are a lot of ways people can contribute to the creation of a product. But the core responsibility for user research, user testing, ideation and validation, the rendering of intent is that of the designer, and the designer is the person who can take that skillset to another business and do it there.

          The project manager may contribute to the quality of the product, but if they move to, say, an accounting firm, they can do project management, but not design.

          That said, yes design is a much more porous job than medicine, but it also has a century of history of study and theory and professional development, from ergonomics to ethnography to psychology and typography. I don't think it's useful to collapse that into a general focus on producing a product.

          You've got a point there about the collaborative nature of the role though to my mind the job of designer is researching, validating and facilitating all that collaborative input, not giving it.

          0 points
  • Amy Horowitz, over 1 year ago

    What do you consider to be a designer???

    0 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      That's a great question, as well. A designer designs, isn't that legit enough? It doesn't have to be some greater conceptual explanation. Now if we're trying to define design in itself, it would probably be much harder and I won't dare to provide a definition without researching it well before.

      0 points
  • Andrew Richardson, over 1 year ago

    Most people, unless their jobs are very production oriented, have some level of influence over design. If that's the company's primary product or a backend system, or simply an internal process. A lot don't internalize this as "design" though usually it's thought of as solving a specific problem, which is part of our job to get more people realizing that what they are doing is design.

    The more I work in the industry the more I see my job as a "Design facilitator". I need to enable and guide people to make smarter design decisions rather than trying to control all aspects of design (because that's completely unsustainable).

    0 points
  • alec salec s, over 1 year ago

    Sure. Just like anyone can be a doctor, engineer or chef if they have a list of clients (or "users") who've been satisfied by what the designer offers them. This applies to any job.

    0 points
    • , over 1 year ago

      But few question the authority of a doctor, engineer or chef, in comparison with designers. Why do most people feel like they know better than the designer?

      0 points
      • alec salec s, 1 year ago

        No, a lot of people question doctors, engineers and chefs. Some have even made a literal living out of it... Example: "Second opinions" and "food critics".

        0 points
  • Darren AlawiDarren Alawi, 1 year ago

    I think the simple answer is yes, but...

    We are all a product of our choices and experiences and that's what made me want to design stuff. So I think it takes a nudge in the right direction and a lot of time to become a person who italicsmightitalics want to be a designer.

    Then it takes the right opportunities and even a fair bit of luck to gain traction in the field and get real experience designing commercially.

    Only then will you able to feel the force.

    0 points
  • Jay CruzJay Cruz, 1 year ago

    No.

    0 points
  • Nick Orland, 1 year ago

    Yes, but not good one.

    0 points
  • Jon MyersJon Myers, 1 year ago

    Just because someone can hold a knife doesn't make them a brain surgeon.

    0 points
  • c L, 1 year ago

    Define designer? What are you trying to accomplish by owning the title of "designer"

    see thread

    https://twitter.com/jmspool/status/836955987860914176?lang=en

    0 points
  • alisha austen, 1 year ago

    Subway a company which offers survey to ensure their customers are satisfied http://sheknowsfinance.com/tellsubway/

    0 points