Probably breaking his own rule of not doing a list post, Mike Monteiro of Mule Design wrote an article for .Net titled 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Designers and I really like what he started out with as number one – choose better problems to solve.
It’s time to aim higher. Let’s find problems to solve that actually improve people’s lives. Whether it’s figuring out a better way to access medical records, figuring out how 14 year olds can stop carrying forty pounds of textbooks back and forth to school every day, or a reservation system for the communal rooftop farm in your building, there has got to be something more beneficial to society than the next Facebook clone.
It’s something that Dale Zak spoke about at Barcamp Saskatoon during his talk entitled Building Technology vs Solving Problems and is a theme that’s hopefully going to be inspiring designers and programmers to do more meaningful things with their talents in 2012. We definitely don’t need another Facebook clone. Nor do we need more ways to share what we’re doing with those around us – as interesting and fun as those things are. There’s real problems in the world and brilliant minds are being wasted trying to figure out how to leverage the social graph to refresh more page views and maximize fourth quarter profits.1
Another resolution Mike identifies that I know I’m guilty of and hear lots of people using to defend their position on a solution is when they use their mom/dad/sister/grandma/etc. as an example of a stupid person.
Stop using “mom” as a shortcut for finding out who the people you’re actually designing for are. Find out how the people you’re designing for actually run their lives and handle their business. Good design comes from empathy, not stereotyping.
I’d add that you don’t need to try to dumb everything down to the lowest common denominator for fear that you might miss out a potential customer. Aim for the customer you want to work with, not just those who’ve figured out how to breathe through their mouth and nose.
Number 10 is a great thought for anyone new to client work. It’s something that we all need to do better at in order raise the quality of all our work in the design and problem solving we do.
You’ll be amazed how many times people are just looking for a solid justification. Stop giving away the farm just because someone asked for clarification. Just calmly tell them why you think your solution is right. You’re the line of defense for design. It’s your job to protect good design. No one else’s. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. But you will always do your job.