Institute of Product Leadership
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Stick to Your Craft. Be an Active Practitioner

  • There are so many tutorials online that urge you to learn UI design from scratch
  • Several design bootcamps and apprenticeships add to the UX design course you did
  • Mentors, coaches, skill workshops are forever honing skills of younger designers

So what is the magic wand that older, senior designers need to survive in the fast evolving world of design?

Ramesh Kozhiserri, director of design, Walmart, has the answer: “Stick to your craft. Be an active practitioner. Always know your design truth, Never let go of that piece. Be more open-minded and willing to adapt. Go with the flow.”

With the Covid-19 threat hanging like a Damocles’ Sword over us, designers are equally guilty of doom-scrolling into the late night. However many of the experienced designers are also waking up to the new opportunities thrown up in the wake of the pandemic. To actively practice design in these times is like facing a fresh bag of challenges.

  • The surge in demand for apps for home delivery of groceries, medicines, salon services provide a chance to redesign existing apps to take on new services or unexpected business pivots and expansions.
  • Seasoned designers are responding to the need of people by redesigning products, software solutions and interfaces to fit into new definitions of usability.
  • Industry sectors, home-grown businesses and even countries are exploring new technology tools to arm themselves against the pandemic. So the demand for better design of services and operations is on the rise in the healthcare, government and banking sectors which the experienced are better equipped to fulfil.

Once you get to a senior level, you can afford to imbibe these macro changes in society and exploit new opportunities. In the initial stages, you need to make sure you are learning and are able to execute, but those who have spent some time can “relearn” and ask questions that matter to the society as a whole, not just the design function.

Give Back to the Design Community
Active practitioners in design are also hugely sought after as mentors. In a recent survey by Norman Neilsen, most UX professionals reported a very positive impact on mentorship on their careers. 80% of those surveyed felt that all new entrants should have a mentor to do well as designers.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

With senior designers mentoring most younger professionals, the design universe has been able to keep ageism at bay. Even now there is some stereotyping of design function:

  • That it is the young who innovate
  • That the older generation are not digitally savvy
  • That with age, creativity fades

Experience Shows in Client Preferences

Soft skills is another sphere where senior designers score over juniors and middle level  designers. Over years, they have mastered communication skills, empathy, problem solving, listening and team collaboration. The experienced have also gained an edge over their younger colleagues during the pandemic because they are quite disciplined in the wfh scenario. They keep the communication lines open, establish a regular set of hours and cement a relationship of trust with the team and stakeholders.

  • Despite working across time zones, senior designers maintain an efficient workflow
  • Many have developed the habit of reverse-briefing clients to reduce communication gap
  • They back their design decisions with data and reason and do not get emotional
  • They keep to deadlines
  • They have learnt to resolve people issues, not just plug product loopholes

 Never stop practicing Design
Director of Design, Walmart, Ramesh Kozhiserri