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Thoughts on product design, creativity, entrepreneurship, teamwork, productivity, and more.

Their opinion of your work doesn't matter

Illustrations by  Jackie Ferrentino  for this article.

Illustrations by Jackie Ferrentino for this article.

You don't always need to make other designers happy with what you create. Realizing this point is both freeing and empowering.

As long as what you create effectively—and, ideally, delightfully—achieves its intended purpose, it doesn't matter who does or does not like or celebrate it.

Arguably the most powerful design work of our time is that which is not found on design sites or at award shows. The most meaningful design work isn’t on the front page of Dribbble, Instagram, or Behance, and it's not being broadly debated on Twitter or Instagram.

The best design work is that which, as Don Norman once explained, is invisible to us:

"Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable."

When we design and build things with the primary intention of impressing other designers—to win awards, to get subscribers or upvotes, or to get others to agree with us or our ideas—we're doing a disservice to the design itself.

If any of our focus is set on impressing other designers, it's not on the achieving the objective of the work.

When we worry over whether or not our work is aligning with popular trends, or when we consider whether or not our designs will get enough upvotes or likes, that's attention that could be spent on more meaningful thins; on user research, conversations with stakeholders, or experimentation with the nuances of the work.

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Design as practice was never intended to create esteem for the designer, but rather: design exists to resolve or improve the circumstances around a specific need or problem.

Design exists to remedy some aspect of a person's life, to seamlessly incorporate powerful technology into a new experience, to create new affordances or to enable for some what was previously unavailable to them.

Often our designed solutions are not going to meet the preferences of some unaware, far-removed, arbitrary person's perception of what makes effective design "good." On many occasions good design will not align with popular trends either, likely out of mere necessity. Good design will certainly align with platform conventions as well as cultural expectations, but more of the ever-changing trendy stuff—things like flashy gradient colors or carefully defined rounded corners that look great on a single device—simply won't apply. The flashy bits don’t even need to apply if we want our work to truly matter, because all that matters is the design is at-most effective and at-minimum quietly remarkable through delight, aligning with mental models, or innovation.

Your work and how it looks for behaves matters only to yourself, your immediate team, and the people the work serves. Anyone who does not fall into one of these three categories can certainly have an opinion of the work, but it's often going to be unnecessarily distracting noise and little else.

Of course, hearing other's opinions of your work matters.

We need other perspectives to improve our limited vision around what it is we're creating. But if the feedback isn't aligned with the design's objective, or if the feedback comes from a place of industry trends or personal bias, it's going to be wildly distracting and ultimately not helpful for achieving your objectives with the work.

If you want to do meaningful design work: ignore the popular trends spoken about only in the spotlighted corners of the Internet, forget about industry awards. Learn to push away the constant buzzing crowd of Internet strangers who are hungry to voice opinions about anything that crosses their path despite their blindness to any rationale on why the work actually matters.

Instead, focus on the opinions of those who matter most: your immediate team, those who will be using what you design, and maybe a handful of others who you know you can rely on to offer valuable perspective rather than flagrant opinion.