Inspired by the Good/Bad Project at Wildbit, I wanted to elaborate on the topic of designer and write about a few aspects that can make a designer great or plunge them into failure. I've taken a look at five areas I feel that help to make a great designer.
Ever heard the phrase "Don't sweat the details"? Well, a good designer ignores this completely and will go far beyond just thinking about it to actually sweating about the details of the design. They won't get bogged down or derailed by the details, but they will ensure proper thought is given to the little (rather imperceptible) touches take a design from mediocre to amazing. In contrast, the bad designer doesn't care. The bad designer doesn't see the need for details and will gloss over them.
When I think about not quitting I hear the words of Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest ring through my head, "Never give up. Never surrender." A good designer doesn't give up. A good designer doesn't quit when it gets difficult. Persevering and pushing through difficult design challenges are part of what makes a designer great. I encourage you to get perspective and even take a break to let your mind sort things out but never give up. A bad designer won't even try, or even worse, is happy to present a final design they're not happy with.
Every good designer must know the medium they're designing for. If you're designing for a printed brochure, you're familiar with the size and stock that it will be printed on. You'll understand how and where the piece is going to be used. It's the same for the web. A good designer knows the web. They will think through the ramifications of their design decisions in their work across the responsive design landscape. They will intuitively ask questions like: What happens when I hover? Is there a micro-interaction here? Is this annoying or confusing to the user? How feasible is this design decision? Knowing the web and it's context will help the good designer produce elegant and great products for the web. The bad designer doesn't love the medium of the web and more importantly doesn't care how the end result works.
Good designers are organized. Either by nature or by training themselves in good organizational habits, they keep their documents and files in an orderly fashion. They name their layers, group objects and keep their layers palette tidy. They will be excited to add appropriate notes and documentation where necessary. Good design is difficult to achieve without an orderly work environment. If you can make good designs in disorganization, then I submit that you can make great designs in an orderly environment. In a recent talk I gave, I was surprised at how many developers said their designers had impossibly messy files. The bad designer doesn't even try and just says, "I'm not an organized person. Sorry."
Good designers have an outstanding relationship with the developers they work with. They realize that their designs are being brought to life in the hands of someone else. The good designer's goal should be to work together as a team to bring to life the best possible experience for the user. A good designer will encourage and appreciate the developer. They will set aside their pride and keep a positive attitude. They will go into detail of their ideas, offer examples or even build the necessary code for reference. The bad designer will belittle and hate the developer for "just not getting it".
No one is perfect. The goal with this post is not to point fingers or blame people. Neither is the goal to downplay other posts on the subject. The goal is to encourage and to bring along designers to be great instead of settling to just cruise along. We can all be better and we can all grow. Learning is part of the job and doing our best to keep a humble attitude while growing ourselves is crucial to doing great work.