Everyone can’t be a designer
Today I’m going to disagree with Jared Spool. And that’s a rare thing. Because pretty much everything the man puts out there is gold, if you ask me.
Not only is he incredibly knowledgable about UX, research and design, he’s also a great storyteller. He has the ability to convey his wisdom in clear and compelling ways. I love reading his many articles.
But there’s one thing he often says, that has been bugging me lately. It’s his phrase that “everyone can be a designer”, as in this tweet:
I know what he means. Everyone, in some way “designs” things. If you decorate your living room, you are “designing” your home. If you organize files and folders on your computer, you are “designing” part your work experience.
And yes, I also know that he means that any ‘non-designer’ that has some influence on a product, from developers to lawyers, is effectively a designer. Because their choices affect the user’s experience, whether they know it or not.
I’m not arguing these things are not true.
What bugs me is that phrases like these devalue the expertise of the designer. It makes me feel like “designer” is not as serious a profession as say, doctors or teachers.
I’ve never heard a healthcare professional say that “everyone is a doctor”, because everyone can influence their own health. I’ve never heard a teacher say that “everyone is a teacher”, because everyone should be able to teach what they know to others. If there’s one thing the pandemic’s lockdowns have taught parents, it’s that teaching is a profession!
Design is also a profession. One that we spend years learning. It requires deep knowledge of materials (physical or digital) and of human behavior. It requires a wide range of skills, like drawing, facilitating, interviewing, analyzing data and many more things. Skills that keep changing and expanding, so we’re never done learning.
Though developers, product managers and lawyers might be able to acquire some of these skills, they can never acquire all of our skills. Design is a fulltime job. You can’t create great experiences without a designer on your team. Same way you can’t create a great house without an architect.
If only we had two different words to describe people who ‘do design’. Like with people who ‘prepare food’. Everyone might be a cook, but not everyone is a chef. I like to think of designers as chefs, not cooks. Unfortunately we only have one word.
So no, everyone can’t be a designer.
But I guess anyone can become one. Because I do believe that no one is born a designer. Some of us may be born with a predisposition for creativity or analytical thinking, which might make it easier to go into design, but designers can come from many different backgrounds. If you are motivated and you are willing to learn and work hard, then you can become a designer.
Kind of like this tweet:
Maybe I don’t disagree with Jared that much after all.