Notes by Gaddafi Rusli
- February 6, 2021
Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to grow a few teams of product designers with a variety of experiences. From my observation in coaching and mentoring — especially the junior to mid-level designers — it is fascinating to see different approaches taken by these designers to get better at their role. If you categorize yourself as a junior product designer, here are several aspects you can focus on if you wanted to ramp up your career growth even faster.
Ask a lot of questions — One noticeable weakness is the inability to ask enough questions. It is never too early to ask questions and there's definitely no such thing as stupid question. Always be skeptical with the requirements if things are unclear. Avoid forming too many assumptions. Question as much as possible to get a better picture on what you are trying to solve. Otherwise, you'll end up working with the wrong assumption or going into a totally different direction - which can later be interpreted as incompetence. Furthermore, by asking questions, it shows how proactive you are as a collaborator in a team.
Explore more concepts — As a visual communicator, it is our job to turn ideas into a functional interface. But more often than not, designers tend to be attached to the first few ideas that come to mind. It is always important to explore a wide range of concepts that satisfy the same requirements and limitations. Merely changing the position of a button is not 'another concept'. Go crazy. Start from a blank canvas to get your mind going. Be aware of the pros and cons for each of them and use those as talking points in your presentation. Chances are the final version is a hybrid of some of these concepts.
Share fast, share often — Be proactive in sharing and getting feedback for your work - especially from your direct manager. It doesn't matter if you're still in the ideation or conceptual stage - it is never too early to share your work and get the feedback loop running. This is crucial to make sure you're not wasting your time exploring in a wrong direction. Plus, you'll be able to narrow down your ideas earlier in the process so you know which concepts to focus on further. Most of the time, those feedback sessions might spark a few more ideas worth exploring.
Be more open for criticism — Designer ego is a real thing. It is okay to be passionate about your work. But don't be too attached to certain solutions. It is important to be able to defend your design decision, but at the same time, you should be able to objectively accept constructive criticism even if it means you'll have to start everything from scratch. Your work is not your worth (that's another topic of its own), so never take things personally. Instead, absorb as much as possible, so you know which area to improve further.
None of these aspects are really related to your design skills and ability. I'm not saying those are not important, however by tuning these aspects earlier in your career, it will make it easier for you to grow into a better product designer as you work with other designers and other functional parts of a company. Good luck!
- January 30, 2021
It is very hard for me to be satisfied with my work. As a designer, I have put a very high bar when it comes to the output of my work. There are so many talented designers and a lot of beautifully designed products out there - so it is only natural to be inspired by them and to have the aspiration to produce something great on my own too.
Taste is one of the important criterias I look for in a candidate when I screen through applicants. However, having a good taste in design doesn’t always correlate to being a good designer. I’m sure a lot of people in the creative industry can relate to this. No matter how much time we spent looking into their work and their processes, we'd still feel like we aren't capable of producing something as good as them. And we will get demotivated because of it.
I'm always reminded by a video I watched years ago, called The Gap. It has a famous quote by Ira Glass:
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
Everything can be iterated. It’s a process. It will take time and we just need to keep producing a lot of work. Hopefully, someday we will get there.
- January 28, 2021
It's a public holiday in Malaysia today. I decided to spend a couple of hours in the morning setting up this Notes page on my website. Back in the early 2000s, when blogging was pretty popular, I did enjoy writing blog posts about design, development and even random life updates on my WordPress blog. In fact, building WordPress themes and website was how I got myself into this whole industry in the first place.
Fast forward to 2020, I've levelled up from an individual contributor to a proper leadership role, leading a team of ~20 designers in a local product company. It's a roller coaster ride as I take up the challenge and learn everything on the job - fighting my impostor syndrome. And I would like to try to share that journey with anyone who is willing to read in this little section of my website.
I hope to build a good rhythm to write some notes and random thoughts here consistently. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if you'd like me to write about a specific subject.
Until the next note.