The latest popular phrase spoken by design industry folks is, “Designers, remember that you’re not special or precious.”
The first time I heard someone say it, I laughed. The next time I heard someone say it I grinned. The third time I heard someone say it, I realized that we’re sending a weird message to people who are new to the design community because they’re usually hearing it out of context.
Being part of the design profession means that you have the ability to form things in your mind that don’t currently exist, and translate your vision into something tangible.
It also means that you look at the world around you and see ways it can be improved rather than permanent, hopeless issues.
Finally it means you have the ability to hear problems and craft solutions. And we’re not talking the first solution you think of.
Designers get paid to investigate and evaluate what a client really needs.
Have you ever seen someone who isn’t a designer try to design UI? I’m sure you’ve had clients who have tried to do it… coming in the door waving a comp. Could you create what they asked for? Yes. Would it likely wind up a hot mess train wreck? Yes again.
Designers don’t bang out exactly what someone asks us to create on the spot. We identify the best solution to meet a client’s need, and then we come up with a plan to make it happen.
Designers think in ways that most people can’t, and come up with elegant solutions to problems that others are unable to solve.
So yes, designers ARE special.
That said, the people who keep saying designers aren’t special or precious mean that we should not be raging jerks to people who are not designers. Nor should we silo ourselves and act like we’re better than everyone else.
We have a very unique skill set that is extremely valuable to companies, but if we act like sanctimonious, holier-than-thou tools, and talk down to people we won’t be given the opportunity to use those skills to have a positive impact on the business company wide. We’ll end up pigeonholed with no opportunity to use our voices to facilitate change.
So designer, you ARE special… but don’t be a jerk about it. Use your powers for good.