Recently, my work, magnificently, has taken a creative turn. From the cold and calculating straight sales world, I blessedly find myself surrounded by bright, lively and brilliant people. And we’re building something. As time goes on, I find myself doing something, oddly, impossibly, that looks like design. Believe it or not, once upon I time, I wanted to be a product designer. I enrolled in one of Canada’s top design institutions, and had a great time doodling and making IKEA furniture out of cardboard, but at the end of the year one of my professors asked me a simple question: He asked me what I wanted to do with design, upon graduation.
“I want to be a product designer of course. I want to work at a big company like Sony or Nike, making cool stuff like TV’s, sneakers and flying cars” He then dropped his head, and gave me the bad news. Or the Test. Depending on how you look at it.
“Oh…you wouldn’t be doing any of that. Only Engineers get to do that kind of thing.”
I was floored. He convinced me that, despite the Department being called ‘Industrial Design’, I would be doing package design upon graduation.
I’ve since decided the whole ‘meeting’ was a trap. He was testing me. He was testing to see if I loved Design. If I was in it for the fame, glory, money, ego (or just to hang out with Lebron James), then I wasn’t worthy. And everyone knows that in first year, Universities try to weed out the.. ahem.. losers. Looking back, he was probably right: I wasn’t like those other artsy types. I was trying so hard to have a cool job. But I grew out of it: a year later I was getting started on my Economics degree–the least cool job there is.
But life has a funny way of coming around. I never stopped doodling. And in an amazing turn of events, I got another offer to do something that looks a lot like Product Design. With a few months under my belt I get to be all professorial now.
So what’s it like to be a designer? I keep coming back to this quote, to underscore the myth of design.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs
Pretty is easy. Cool is easy. There are thousands of different designs that are nice. But clients don’t actually care about pretty. Pretty is balance. Pretty is composition. Pretty is not using too many clashing colors.
But Design is how it works. And that can actually be measured:
- How many times per day does this button get clicked on?
- How many people read this blogpost?
- How many people told their friends about this app?
- How easy is it to find this part of the software/game/website?
- Is the product/website/game easy to pickup and play/use?