Web Designer = Investigator

I’m reading through the entire volume of Sherlock Holmes with my oldest son.  It’s not for the faint of heart and there are parts I have to ‘summarize’ for my 7 year old, but it is amazing how fast the amazing Holmes can put together simple and seemingly unrelated observation to unravel profound mysteries.  Being a web designer is really a lot like being Sherlock Holmes.  When working on a project everything the client is saying (and what they aren’t) is a clue to understanding the needs of the project.  A lot of times, people only know bits of the puzzle.  A good designer is able to discover the missing pieces and the client will recognize them.

But a web designer must also be a life long investigator on the technology behind web design.  I remember one day feeling particularly overwhelmed with how little I knew about coding.  I shared my discouragement with a friend of mine who has been designing for years.  He shared with me that on every project he has always had to figure out some portion of the project by researching on the internet.  I think somewhere in my mind I thought if I studied enough I would finally ‘arrive.’  I would reach this all-knowing-internet-guru state of mind.

Balderdash.  [Insert Sherlock accent here]

There is still so much I have to learn and with every project there is going to be something new.  I will always be learning.  I will always be stretching myself.  This is the new normal.  A lot like life really.

It goes back to being a turtle: I must be a patient plodding pursuer of knowledge.  Little by little, one successful investigation after another, I will be learning and adding to what I know.  I now join a league of investigators… perhaps one might say explorers.  I may still have so much to learn but in the meantime I am definitely getting myself a deerstalker.

Interview: Brian Sullivan

Just finished a phone interview with a bad ass guy who knows just about everybody in Dallas when it comes to UX design.  Brian Sullivan has been involved with Web Design for over 10 years  with an emphasis on user research and usability.  First, let me say that this guy was super knowledgeable and super approachable.  Even before I talked with him I knew he was passionate about design and connecting people within the field.  Why else would he put together a meetup group for Dallas UXers ?  Not to mention he is also one of the main organizers of the Big (D)esign Conference.  Obviously, this is one passionate guy.

I asked Brian for a little advice and what I got was a goldmine.  Among the numerous books, events & products he gave me to look into I got some great advice that I want to document so that I won’t forget it:

#1.  Be proud of your background.  I have a degree in psychology, not computers.  I may not know how to build a computer, but I know how a website must cater to human behavior if it is to accomplish it’s end goal.  That is a valuable skill to have.  When making a career jump you have to see the value in your past experience and be confident in how it can apply to your future professional path.

#2.  Be a go getter.  Put yourself out there.  You may not feel ready but take the leap anyway.  You may know more than you realize.  Also, as you get more exposure you will find people who will be valuable to connect with.  But if you never take that leap you will not accomplish anything.

#3.  Learning design is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant… so get used to it.  There is no way around it: there is a lot to learn about this field and it is changing everyday.  It’s like a roller coaster that you have to jump onto when the ride has already started.  It’s not going to slow down for you so you may as well enjoy it.

#4.  Know what what type of web designer you want to be.  I keep getting asked what field within the field am I interested in: User research? Visual design? Information design?  My past experience on smaller projects hasn’t required a specialized knowledge, but rather I was in charge of the overall website implementation.  At this point, I would like to be a Visual Designer, but I feel like there is more out there that I need to consider.  It’s time to go deeper.

Like I said, Brian had a lot of good advice and several product/publication recommendations that I am still going through.  Stay tuned for more.  A ‘Resource’ page will be coming soon.  I’ll be attending my first Dallas UX Group meeting in just a couple of weeks.  Check back for an update, or register yourself!