2011-03-17

The Designer Personality

Design is a curious activity that mixes many disciplines, modes of thinking and personal traits and focuses them towards achieving an outcome. The designers mind can process different modes of thought each with different value systems. Pro-designers do not even switch between thinking modes – their minds just think multiple ways in parallel. Previously eturnerx has explored how to spot a potential designer early. As an extension this article explores the personality traits that make the designer successful.

The designer is both creative and critical. Creating and to critiquing are in constant conflict within a designer. The trick is to let the creative run free and the critic come in later to provide the reality check. If the critic is too strong then the designer will become paralysed. The systematic design process even instructs designers when to be creative and when to critique (e.g. during concepting).

Design is a pragmatic activity that must balance many factors to ensure good outcomes. As well as considering budgets, deadlines and personal skill levels, designers must also consider the message, the medium and the target audience. Because design solutions are ultimately born into the real fancy theories count and elegant production count for nothing compared to just making it work. Designers first concentrate on getting it done, then (if time permits) on doing it right.

Good designers are deadline focused. They manage their time / task allocations with a keen eye on that deadline. This deadline thing is so innate that designers easily become frustrated with those with more lax attitudes to deadlines.

Designers are inherently results focused. They can sometimes become so tunnel visioned about result they want that they do not care about the journey towards producing that result. This unfortunately includes neglecting personal relationships with co-workers, friends and even family.

Designers have an obsessive attention to details. Little things annoy them. Designers have strong emotive reactions to even tiny niggles they see in the visual world around them. They will use up all available amount of time adjusting something over and over until it is just right. This behavior confuses outsiders who cannot see what the fuss is about because they do not understand the aesthetic considerations at play. One area novice designers can improve their productivity is to avoid endlessly adjusting something: just decide and move on.

In order to pragmatically weigh up the attention to detail with the deadline urge successful designers have learned to “let it go”. That is, once time is up, the work is complete. Yes, the work would be with more time – but the needs of the next job soon consume them and any regrets are soon forgotten away.

Designers selflessly remove themselves from the equation. They facilitate a client’s message via a media so that it is clearly understood by the audience. That leaves little room for artistic self expression. Designers also understand that creativity for them is not about the most original outcome but about the most appropriate outcome.

A designer is confident enough that they can take critique of their work in a positive manner. They know that while they should "sell" their design and educate the client, critique is not about automatically defending their work, the critique is usually motivated by an honest desire to improve the work. They have long since learned to deal with the emotions that go with having work critiqued.

(If you liked this article then you might also like: What do Design School Grades Mean?)