If you have never painted walls as a child, never cut birds of mom’s favorite tablecloth or drown pictures on sleeping dad’s face, people would not call you creative.
And you would not have any desire or passion for creating anything, furnishing a room or even having a notebook for your daily doodles.
“I am not a creative person,” you would say to anyone who would meet you in daily life and ask about something design-related. And it’s usually the same with “tech-people,” who don’t write tons of codes or don’t do the math as their hobby on a daily basis. But that’s a different topic to cover.
We are used to thinking that being a designer means being an enormously creative person with super-power possessed from Crypton. And I have to admit, that this profession is wide-spread these days.
I mean, we had more graphic designers than web developers in 2016. And although web development is another “tech” mystery, I still do not understand one thing. Today we have too many designers. And other people — outside of the design sphere — think that being a designer means being exceptional and creative.
I’m afraid to disappoint you that if you did draw on walls and wanted to create something as a child, then you should never be a designer.
The mystery is dull as anything:
Designers are people, just like you and me, just like managers and sales representatives.
What they do is just a set of particular skills applied to the visual implementation of things around us.
No, they don’t see the world differently. Designers know many conventional patterns we use in daily life.
And the third point is probably one of the most interesting to talk.
How much do you know about your daily patterns? How much do you know about what and, (very important) why you do something?
I’m sure we rarely pay attention to things we are used to using on a daily basis. We don’t think why and how things work and how they make our life better. We take many things for granted.
Navigation apps, social media apps, applications for work, e-payment systems, e-commerce, online stores, smart TV… There are too many things that we take for granted. It feels like we have had this all the time, doesn’t it?
When I just got into product management, the first thing I had to face was not the product and not the strategy. It was the problem this product was solving.
I encountered a designed representation of a solution for a particular problem.
And let’s talk about this “designed” part. What is it like? What process it includes, and why we call it “designed” after all.
So, if you did like painting walls, don’t enroll in this design degree program. Just cancel it now until it’s not too late. I’m serious.
We think that design is for aesthetic. It’s all about beautiful fonts, mixing colors, cute buttons, and funny animation. It’s about seeing beautiful pictures combined and “handwritten” fonts.
But it’s not.
I know, shocking.
The design is about function. No matter how beautiful or pleasant it is. Just imagine that you have no idea for an app, you mix colors and add beautiful pictures and buttons randomly with no purpose. People would look at it and say “Amazing!”
And in a few minutes: “What does it do?”
And it’s a reasonable question. It’s an app. Not a piece of art. It’s supposed to do something, right? It’s supposed to make something working or help me make something working.
If it’s just a beautiful picture, is it a design after all?
No! Beautiful pictures are a piece of art! And art has an entirely different purpose. It is for aesthetic, in the first place. And it’s never about function.
The design is always about function!
I cannot imagine talking with a designer saying something: “Well, I need just a few beautiful buttons on the bottom and the line of text here.”
A good designer would ask me why.
Because she needs to know the function of these buttons and the text.
Do I need design thinking as a non-designer? I do! I need to know what functions some things do.
But I don’t have to step forward from the design part. I have to think of the experience this design is going to represent.
Because if I don’t think from the functional side of the app or software, I’ll agree with any other beautiful picture and button the designer will show me.
I’ve heard that we even have a bit of crisis today with apps being too much of a copycat. There are already too many working conventions proven to be working and successful.
And when you design an app or anything, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s been created before you, use the patter and everything will be fine.
But funnily enough, we have a creative crisis in the sphere where ordinary people think all the creative sparks and flourishes.
But is this a designer’s problem? That we have too many conventions that work and solve the same problem every time? Does this mean that we exceeded the capacity of solutions and now everything can be resolved in just two clicks of a mouse?
You know that developers can make an app, which will create an app that generates design patterns out of successfully programmed workflows. The app will combine a color scheme, which is pleasant and choose the right font. You will need to confirm the code and functions and release it.
Does this sound like something amazing?
I don’t think so.
So, here is the thing. Although we think that creativity is something one gets and another doesn’t, we can all see patterns if we want.
And when you see a pattern, you can always experiment with it. And if a designer will not do that, you, as a product manager, for example, have a prosperity of choices.
You know patterns. But you also have a desire to explore more. Even if you have a solution, you bear, at the back of your mind, that there’s probably a better solution. That there’s probably a better functional approach you can find.
And I want you not to be afraid of beautiful pictures and flawless animation somebody does. They are good designers. They are amazing in their field.
But you are a thinker. You are a problem-solver. And you are also a problem-spotter. And there’s nobody else, who can do this job better than you do.
You need to think like a designer. But you also have to think beyond that.
Ever faced a design challenge, which you couldn’t solve on your own? You though of the problem and you knew that there’s something you can do and implement but was too scared to “ruin” the designed part by “the big guys”?
Share a story when design thinking helped you as a product manager to solve a non-design problem!
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