Valuing Design as a Craftsmanship

“Design” is such a broad term.

Are we talking Industrial Design or Fashion Design? Oh we are discussing digital… well are we then talking about IT system Design?

To make matters even more confusing over the last couple of years there’s been an increase in books published around the core theme that everybody is a Designer!

Design becomes a discussable and disputable concept rather than a respected profession.

While it is good there is an increase in the focus of the topic of Design, claiming that everybody is a Designer dilutes the value of trained/experienced Designers.

This is exasperated by the fact that Design is often seen as fluffy and intangible and hard to understand.

In other words: Design becomes a discussable and disputable concept rather than a respected profession.

Don’t think “Design”, think “Digital Design Craftsmanship”.

Everybody is a Carpenter.

Anyone can pick up a hammer and (through trial and error) learn to nail some planks of wood together.

But nobody in their right mind would hire anybody to build a whole house.

We would be looking for Carpenters who are experiences Craftspeople. Why is that? Well, we are looking at three things:

  1. Has the person done this successfully before?
  2. Does the person have access to the right skills and tools to complete the task as effective and efficiently as possible?
  3. Can the person complete the task to a professionally polished level?

This is really how Design Craftsmanship should be presented too:

  1. Does the Designer has a portfolio of proven work? Even graduates have work from school to show.
  2. Does the Designer possess relevant Design skills (colour and composition theory, typography, UI patterns, research etc) and do they know how to use the right Design tools professionally (Photoshop, Sketch,  POP etc)?
  3. This one is a bit more tricky because given the growth in our industry, it’s been necessary to break the traditional Web Designer into several flavours of Design: UX, UI, Interaction, IA and more. So it is important to make a clear distinction between roles.

Communicate the value of Digital Design Craftsmanship

This is hard and will remain a difficult task because good design is obvious. The whole point of good design is to reach the most effective solution that seems natural and logical to the most people, which means that once the final design is reached, it happens that the reaction is “That’s obvious. Why didn’t you just do that to start with?”

Good Design is obvious.
Great Design is Invisible.

It’s a good idea to be able to tell the journey of discovery and user insight that led up to this point.

Great design is invisible. It blends into the users’ daily lives so naturally, it is simply not noticed.

Always bring facts and numbers where you can. Always being the journey to the end result where you can.

Don’t be afraid of making it look challenging. It might be easy for you as a Designer, but for other people this is rocket science and they need to understand this to understand the value of Design Craftsmanship.

A word on UI Craftsmanship

The value of Craftsmanship is not just outside our industry. It happens within as well.

There is a tendency to see UX as the more grown-up and the more difficult branch of Digital Design. UX strive to understand the end users and their needs. UX participates in research and understands the business objectives.

Without the gentle touch of the UI Craftsperson, the solution will never be completed to that professional degree.

However, UX produces Personas, Journeys, Wireframes and Lo-fi Prototypes… back to point 3 above about completing a task to a professional level… these are all deliverables for a specific and needed part of the Digital Design process, but they are not the final polished output.

Without the gentle touch of the UI Craftsperson, the solution will never be completed to that professional degree.

Getting it done to a polished, professional, pixel-perfect level is not just the “final touch”. It is an integrated and vital component of the delivering a professional solution.

Vice versa UI can deliver something that looks polished, but without UX, there’s little chance it will hit the users’ needs.

As a UI Designer, make sure you can articulate your craftsmanship value to your fellow UX colleagues so they understand the value you you bring.



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