The Grumpy Designer: Work How You Want To, Adjust When You Have To


How many times has your web browsing or social media feed led you to an article telling you not to do things the way you’re doing them? It seems like every day we’re bombarded with being told prime advice such as not to use Photoshop for website mockups or that gradients are so out of fashion. There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to how we should do our jobs.

While the quest for evolution in web design is a noble one, sometimes it’s littered with well-meaning nonsense. That’s why, as a grumpy designer with over two decades in the game, I’m declaring that we work in the way that makes us most comfortable and productive.

Because, while Sketch may in fact be an awesome way to do mockups, I still like good old Photoshop. Plus, I use Windows (I’d rather not pay a premium for the Apple name on things – much love to them otherwise) and Sketch is Mac-only at this point. Sorry, trendsetters of the world, but I’m probably not going to shell out a few thousand dollars for a Mac just so I can run Sketch. But I digress.

Individuality in Everything (Almost)

There’s an episode of the long-forgotten (but loved by me) TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun in which the characters (who are aliens posing as humans) devote themselves to only the most popular things in culture. They see the #1 movie, buy the #1 brand of peanut butter, etc. But (spoiler alert) they discover that it makes for a bit of a boring life.

Individuality is not only important when it comes to your taste in peanut butter – it also means a lot in the world of design. When you think about it, creativity itself is really an individual trait. And that goes for how we create just as much as what we create.

So, inevitably, my way of working is going to be different than yours. Does that mean only one of us is right? Probably not.

Since we’re humans (and not aliens or machines), we all do things in our own way. Variation is to be expected and perhaps even celebrated when it comes to most things.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still adhere to best practices. While we want to let our freak flags fly, let’s not start making inaccessible websites or stop placing comments in our code. The end result still matters – but the way we arrive there may not matter as much.

Times Change, and So Do We

Times Change, and So Do We

All of us have our own barometer for change. Some like to be early adopters of whatever the hot new trend is. Others among us change gradually – as it may take awhile for us to see the real benefits of switching things up.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’d certainly fit into the latter category. Once I latch on to an app or technique, I stick with it until the bitter end. Or, at least until I realize I’m being foolish – whichever comes first.

Regardless of what anyone tells you, it’s just fine and dandy to change at your own pace. If you’ve just created an amazing website, it’s doubtful that your client is going to care that you didn’t use x, y or z for the mockup or some other part of the process. If you’re doing great things, keep on keeping on.

Stay Current, Stay True

Stay Current, Stay True

While you should feel free to work the way you want, you should still at least check in on the latest and greatest every so often (even if it’s only to scoff at it). There is always the chance that something out there really is better and will make you more productive.

Willfully keeping yourself in the dark about changes in the industry are what can get even a great designer in trouble. For example, if it turns out something you’re doing is really bad for accessibility, you might want to tweak your game a bit.

The idea is to be open to what’s out there without being a slave to it. Like the month of March, trends can come in like a lion and leave like a lamb (and some do only stick around for 31 days). Jump on the right ones if you want – but don’t ever feel pressured by the rest of the world to do so. It’s your creative life: Live it your way.

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