The ever eloquent Cap Watkins wrote a great post this week about The Boring Designer. I appreciate but don’t fully *identify with the Boring Designer. As a counter point, I wanted to write an ode to the bold designers among us, the designers who…
…are always trying to make it weird.
Conventions are conventions for a reason — they really do work. Our primary goal is to make something that works. But conventions don’t imply a an ultimate best answer, an single ideal solution. The bold designer is always playing at the fuzzy edges of functional. They’re seeing just how weird things can get before function breaks, because they know that there are unknown opportunities and undiscovered truths in the murk. Their response to a conventional solution isn’t “go with it”; it’s “yes, but what if”. A user’s needs, human motivations — those are the universals. The things we make to satisfy those motivations can take infinite forms. Convention is the tip of a super interesting iceberg.
…are in it for themselves.
The bold designer knows that their technical ability is a commodity. The only truly unique thing they bring to the table is a voice and point of view informed by their experience, ideas, and—most importantly—their curiosities. They know an idea cannot be optimized. There is no platonic ideal. They chase their own curiosities and try to align very real demands (that a product needs to function) with the desire to have a product inspire. They are not selfish; they are self-aware. They know their voice. And they believe it is in the user’s best interest to make that voice heard. They are competitive collaborators, but in the end they are happy to concede to a better solution, because it is in the struggle, the push and pull, that everyone brings their best work.
…are suspicious of process.
The bold designer is resistant to too much planning and process. They know what worked yesterday may not work today, and are weary of too many assumptions. They are protective of and try to remain in a state of play where curiosity trumps past experience (and sometimes even data!). They buck bureaucratic prowess in favor of raw skill. They avoid developing any skill set that isn’t directly relevant to success of their work (they will never master Power Point, they will never consistently log tasks into agile tracking software).
…do it the hard way every time.
They respect individuals but have little regard for artificial boundaries. They will take an idealized view of their work, the team, the organization — so much so that they are often left disappointed. And they will not stop pushing back on things that aren’t great. They can be uncompromising, unforgiving even, but they are hardest on themselves. They never try to make things go smoothly. Smooth is a welcomes side effect but they know that their best work always came by struggle.
*some of these ideas taken from this amazing post [LINK] http://randsinrepose.com/archives/the-wolf/
…value their voice.
They’re existential calculus is as follow: “if *I* am going to be *here* working on *this thing*, it must be influenced in a way that is unique to my approach, preferences, style, and opinions”. For the bold designer to be willing to exchange any measure of their life for the success of this thing, it must reflect them in some way. Everyone around them can execute, but the voice of that execution will be, must be unique to each designer.
The bold designer doesn’t lead with professionalism; they lead with energy and vulnerability. They assume everything beyond convention is subjective. That is the space where really interesting things happen. They don’t measure ideas by quality. For them, and idea is only as good as the conviction behind it. They have a strong voice and they try to bring that voice out of others. They ask others to meet them with enthusiasm and authenticity. They’re in for the struggle. They hold on to the idea that there is some illusive but very real greatness among all the button states, style guides, wireframes and flows.
The bold designer is a powder keg. But when harnessed the results can be explosive.a
So be great. Be bold!
*And my feeling is the the so-called “boring designer” maps to many of these traits, but they may manifest more internally than externally. When you work with good people, everyone cares, everyone has a unique and strong voice, and everyone has their opportunities to be bold, even quietly bold. Boring designer—you’re not as boring as you think :)