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Your design titles doesn't mean sh*t!
Designing your own career path in a demanding world
Here's what you'll learn:
Titles are just titles
Don’t just chase the $$$
Embracing the challenge of growth
and much more…
Let’s dive in…
Design titles have become a ubiquitous part of the design industry, with job postings and career profiles often featuring titles such as "UX Designer," “Design lead”, "Senior designer," or "Design Director."
But here's the truth…
Titles in design don't matter, and you should not give a fuck about them.
Because titles are arbitrary and often misleading. I’ve witnessed firsthand people who have a “Senior design lead” title who did not perform at that level or what I would expect from that person.
A designer with the title of "Senior Designer" may not necessarily be more skilled or experienced than a designer with the title of "Designer." And a "Creative Director" may not necessarily be more creative or innovative than a designer who does not hold that title.
This is like those who have 3 years of experience in design and who are VP of design at a company of 1 🤔.
In a world where design thrives on constant innovation and relentless competition, it is crucial for designers to navigate the complex landscape with resilience and authenticity. Traditional notions of success and external validation can often cloud our creative spirit and hinder genuine artistic expression.
Getting that Design director title does not mean you will be happy. Happiness is what counts in life, not your job title.
Titles are just titles
Contrary to popular belief, design titles don't matter as much as one might think or one may want too. In fact, chasing after prestigious titles can be detrimental to one's growth as a designer.
Titles such as "Senior UX Designer" or "Staff Designer" may seem appealing, promising a higher salary and more recognition. But in reality, these titles often come with added responsibilities and expectations that can stifle creativity and limit professional growth. Instead of focusing on climbing the corporate ladder, designers should prioritize their craft and personal development.
We get into the design field because of our love for the arts. The more experience you get, the more often times than none you transition away from that very thing you loved. Designing.
While design titles like "senior designer," "art director," or "creative lead" may sound impressive, they do not necessarily reflect the actual skill level of a designer. Titles can be subjective, inconsistent across organizations, and even inflated for the sake of marketing or internal politics. In some cases, individuals may be given lofty titles without possessing the necessary expertise, while others with exceptional talent might have more modest designations. Relying solely on titles to judge a designer's abilities can be misleading and hinder the recognition of true talent.
Experience trumps titles
Design is a field that demands experience and practical skills. It's through hands-on work, learning from mistakes, and facing real-world challenges that designers grow and refine their craft. Merely having a fancy title does not automatically make someone a better designer. Practical experience, on the other hand, allows designers to develop a deep understanding of their field, gain problem-solving abilities, and cultivate their creative intuition. Employers and clients should prioritize a designer's portfolio and previous projects over their title when assessing their capabilities.
Unleashing the power of creative resilience
Resilience is the cornerstone of a thriving designer.
Instead of succumbing to burnout and self-doubt, we must embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth. By adopting a growth mindset and cultivating self-care practices, designers can find strength within themselves to bounce back from setbacks, evolve their craft, and flourish in an ever-changing landscape.
Break free from the shackles of self-imposed limitations and reclaim your creative resilience.
Redefining success on your terms
The pursuit of success in the design industry is often intertwined with external validation and metrics such as awards, recognition, and social media popularity.
Unfortunately many consider Twitter likes as the holy grail of a successful designer. While it sometimes is very true, consider that many successful designers are not even on Twitter or have social media accounts.
However, true success stems from aligning our personal values and passions with our work. By shifting our focus from external validation to intrinsic fulfillment, we can redefine success on our terms, freeing ourselves from the constraints of societal expectations and fostering authentic innovation.
Design is a messy process; it is not a linear path but a journey of iterations, failures, and breakthroughs.
Embracing unpredictability and allowing ourselves to make mistakes leads to true originality and innovative ideas.
Reframing failure as a stepping stone to growth paves the way for unlocking our true potential as designers.
Championing authenticity in a world of trends is crucial to standing out and resonating with genuine emotions.
Resist the pressure to conform and rediscover your unique voice, embracing quirks and staying true to design principles.
Celebrate diversity and boldness, redefining what it truly means to be an authentic designer.
Cultivate collaborative communities that nurture and support each other in the design field.
Seek diverse collaborations, embrace constructive feedback, and foster an inclusive environment.
Tap into a wealth of knowledge and inspiration by building bridges and sharing insights with fellow designers.
Unveiling my unique insights
Note that this is my personal opinion, not a blueprint for success! It merely reflects my personal experiences and what has worked for me. Having collaborated with numerous designers and professionals across start-ups, agencies, and enterprise software as well as mentored numerous other design talents, I have gained unique perspectives that may offer valuable insights.
It is essential to approach these insights with a degree of skepticism and individual judgment.
Look beyond the dollar signs
Let's face it: the allure of money seems to be a key driver in this world from fancy homes, fancy Porsches, and fancy vacations. Unfortunately, this perspective can be a career mistake, regardless of whether you're a junior or a senior professional.
When money becomes your sole focus, your work becomes solely about the paycheck. This narrow mindset prevents you from exploring new roles that could offer growth opportunities and ultimately lead to a more substantial salary increase.
I've witnessed countless designers who initially secured high-paying positions and found themselves trapped in the same role for years due to the comfortable salary they were earning. As a result, they became complacent, and their salaries stagnated below the market rate. They got stuck designing small features over small features 😱.
Complacency breeds stagnation, and stagnant skillsets make you unappealing to potential employers. Following the money often leads to two significant consequences:
Stifled Market Value
So, how can you break free from the money trap in UX?
Focus on learning and growth
Pursue passion and purpose
Embrace risk and change
Don’t get me wrong. Money pays the bills but sometimes doing what you love is worth more.
Embrace the challenge of growth
The pursuit of personal and professional growth may seem like an obvious goal, but it is a path less traveled by many professionals due to its inherent difficulties.
One day I made the decision to leave my Design director job at a reputable startup making waves on the international scene.
Everyone was asking "Why, Pascal?"
In all honesty. I had outgrown the role and the place. I had to admit that I didn't feel they would allow me to grow at the pace I desired. Despite growing that company from 20 to 200+ employees it felt too slow and confined for my ambitions. I craved a more dynamic and challenging environment.
And so, I decided to throw myself inside the enterprise software world 🙃.
Initially, I was like WTF did I just do… it didn't seem worth it, but within a year, it paid off tremendously as I gained invaluable experiences and worked on projects that few others had the opportunity to be a part of.
This leap of faith eventually led to a significant salary increase, responsibilities, and growth.
Growth strategies differ among individuals and it’s important that you choose what is right for you and your career.
True growth requires embracing challenges, venturing into unfamiliar territories, and actively seeking opportunities to expand our knowledge and capabilities. You only grow when you put yourself into uncomfortable situations.
Network and collaborate
Remember, the path of growth may be arduous, but the rewards it brings are immeasurable.
Seek companies, not just your next job
A mentor of mine once told me: “You should never run away from your current company or role but run towards your next adventure”.
To stand out from the crowd, I advocate reversing the process. Instead of solely searching for jobs, shift your focus to finding companies you genuinely want to work for and explore if they have any open positions.
By taking this approach, you unlock several advantages:
Alignment with your values
Tap into hidden opportunities
By prioritizing companies over job listings, you can approach your job search strategically, ensuring a better fit and increasing your chances of finding fulfilling opportunities.
So, instead of merely searching for jobs, embark on a journey to discover companies that align with your career goals and values. Dive into research, network, and proactively explore opportunities that may not be advertised on job boards. By doing so, you'll set yourself apart and position yourself for success in finding the right company to thrive in.
And you may surprise yourself working at a startup and fucking loving it!
Know when to quit
It’s important, to be honest with yourself and admit when something is not working.
“Go ahead and quit, no one is going to hire you because you didn’t stay at the company for long enough.” Companies that question a candidate’s loyalty are companies that look at employee retention wrongly.
Be braver about your career decisions, and never settle.
Trust your own voice
It may seem paradoxical that I, too, am offering advice while urging you not to heed it unquestioningly. However, the essence of the message remains true: Don't blindly follow the opinions of others because only you truly understand yourself.
When I embarked on my design career, I faced confusion and uncertainty. Many, or almost everyone, and their moms had an opinion.
"Join an agency,". "Start your own design firm". “Do an internship”. “Join big name from the big 6” others recommended.
Here's the key.
Seek guidance and insights, but ultimately trust your own instincts and understanding of your unique strengths, passions, and goals.
Reflect on self-knowledge
Seek validation through experimentation
Embrace growth and adaptation
The amount of noise from social media platforms or from Twitter design only pulls you further away from what you truly want. Everyone is unique. Everyone has their own path.
While this article refrains from offering specific action steps for your career (and rightfully so), my intention is to encourage introspection regarding your current position and how you can improve your situation in a way that is most beneficial for you.
If you want to try something just go ahead and do it. Don’t see anything as a failure but instead, as a lesson learned.
To thrive as a designer in today's demanding world, we must challenge the status quo and embrace our authentic selves. Don’t let a title get in the way of what truly makes you happy. The path of growth may be arduous, but the rewards it brings are immeasurable. By prioritizing experiences, embracing challenges, and continuously expanding your skillset, you can unlock new opportunities and carve your own unique path to success.
Embark on this transformative journey, celebrating your uniqueness and flourishing as designers who shape the world with originality and passion.
Until next time,
Pascal & Mitchell
Hey, Mitchell & Pascal here! Thanks for checking out this week’s free edition of the Shaping Design newsletter. We strive to send you the best tips and our very own unique perspective each week. Subscribe to get each article!
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