Designers. Merriam-Webster defines expectation as “the act or state of expecting : ANTICIPATION”. Since I’ve started collaborating with Linkedin on the Career Advice program, I’ve received quite an eclectic array of questions, though a common thread seems to emerge from them: professionals migrating their career paths to UX and Product Design, and additionally, what to expect from a shift into that world. Talking about expectations in Design and specifically for Designers, can take many interpretations and a variety of paths. I’ll provide some considerations on Career expectations, Team Integration expectations and Design Thinking Process expectations.
Career Expectations — a large percentage of professionals diving into the world of UX and Product Design, have a variety of backgrounds (the individuals reaching out to me for instance, have done that inflection from careers in Insurance to Graphic Design for instance). There is a statement I’ve made to these professionals, across various threads and responses: Education is fundamental when coming to this Universe (and that Education can have its source from college programs, training institutes, online programs, self teaching). Design is an Ocean of opportunities, but those waters can be very choppy, deep and at times, murky, particularly when professionals aren’t sufficiently prepared, or prepare themselves with just enough knowledge to get by, while not being effective to satisfy the demands of the teams they are integrated with. Typically from a career perspective, there’s an expectation surrounding the Design profession, specifically on UX and Product Design, which is all about uncovering one miraculous solution (or product idea or app), which will in turn promptly make an Organization, and the Design team in the process, instant millionaires. The narratives built around very successful Organizations and products in the Silicon Valley area, have long attested to this mythology. However, in my answers, I always make it my goal, the clarification of the following points: Education always plays a part (constant education and refinement of a professional’s knowledge base), Research is a great co-pilot, Hard work and perseverance will have to become synonymous with your path, and finally, Humbleness (to learn from the experiences, from your peers, from your clients, from your users, in essence from every single individual that crosses your path, and who always has something to teach, no matter how insignificant that may at first glance be). The expectation that a career in Design (UX and Product Design specifically) materializes to instantaneous financial stability (or success), and rapid-fire career advancement, doesn’t necessarily marry reality. Career paths are very diversified, there’s a lot of professionals in the field competing for the same roles, some of which believing they understand the formula for product solutions better than others, but ultimately what it boils down to is: gain the knowledge, be humble to understand that knowledge should be shared and constantly improved upon, define a point of view, be thorough, communicative, document your path, and persist in your endeavors. The “add-water concoction” type of approach to this discipline, and really to any, doesn’t produce longevity.
Team Integration Expectations — when Designers are integrated within teams, they typically build a series of expectations, conditioned of course by how the organization they’re inserted within, handles Design as a discipline in the context of devising product solutions. What this means in reality, typically manifests itself both in the partnership Designers create with their peers, and also how does that also influence the Design Thinking process. While Designers may expect at times to lead these teams, and to a certain extent, the discoverability process that underlines many of these initiatives, it’s fundamental to quickly realize that on a team, and please forgive the obviousness, everyone has a role, everyone has a responsibility: making sure the path is trailed jointly and not racing competitively (well at least not internally). The expectation that Designers are at times “rockstars” (is that even an expression these days), is now more than ever, a fallacy. Designers are thinkers, catalysts, organizers, alchemists, gathering information, distilling it, making sure that everyone understands the path (including the clients), so that the expected outcomes are indeed satisfyingly and overwhelmingly successful.
Design Thinking Process Expectations — on the trail of the last point, those statements also inform this paradigm and methodology. Professionals have typically asked me a series of questions on this topic: what is the role of a Designer in such a process, are Designers driving that process solely, can anyone run Design Thinking Processes. As previously stated, many professionals handling Innovation cycles, Design Thinking Processes, aren’t trained academically as Designers. They are professionals hailing from different backgrounds, who understand the virtuosity of this method, who set about uncovering aspects of the process itself, while collaborating with professionals in the Design field (across disciplines such as research, interaction, visual design, among others), and can bring additional dimensions, relevancy and credibility for the task and path they’re attempting to define. The expectation of Designers leading this process, is therefore warped. Keep in mind, eclectic professionals handle/tackle these processes (with varying degrees of success of course), and while this is a methodology with enough elasticity to contemplate those eclectic backgrounds, typically the ones I’ve witnessed to be most successful, are coincidentally the ones where Designers are indeed co-pilots of the endeavor itself.