Finale: A field guide to being better at design by being self aware

Being great at design is as much about knowing the theory as it is about knowing your own areas of growth as a designer. As the Hack Design course comes to a close with this last lesson, I want to point to a few resources that will help you understand yourself better as a designer. These are questions that, as designers, we have all asked ourselves at some point of time. They call for introspection and in the process will make you more aware of what kind of designer you want to grow into. The collection of resources in this lesson are less about theory and more about being more self aware as a designer. These are my personal favorite resources that have helped me grow as a designer and hopefully will help you too.

  1. Design is a Job

    Mike Monteiro (Mule Design) combines the best nuggets of wisdom of design professionalism in this quick read. Whether you choose to go down the route of freelancing or decide to join a startup, this book has good advice for everyone. It’s a book about what NOT to do.

    Make a list of tips as you come across them while reading the book and keep them handy.

  2. The Shape of Design

    If I had to recommend one book to you, it would be this one. This is not a bag of tricks, nor is this a list of todos. Frank Chimero explores the process of design and thereby manages to pose a few important questions that we have all asked at some point in our careers.

    Keep a mental note of how your own process maps to this. Do not worry if your process is drastically different from what Frank describes. The goal is not to have one correct process but to make you aware of your own process and give insight into what other ways of approaching a problem might be.

  3. Choosing the Problems You Solve

    Design is a lot of things and no one designer can be great at all the aspects. What are the problems that you are most passionate about? What kind of change do you want to bring in the world with your design? Being self aware of your interests and strengths will help you in being a better designer. Julie Zhuo (Facebook) sets up a good framework to guide you through. Do you want to solve system level problems or are you better equipped at creating the next innovate leap in interaction design.

    After reading this, make a note of what kind of design impact you want to have. What are the problems that you do not want to solve. What are the opportunities that exist today where you can do the work you want to.

  4. What are people looking for when they hire a designer

    In this 3 part article, Julie looks talks about what to look for when hiring a designer, thereby creating a great resource of things you need to work on for that dream job interview. As you read through it, you will find points where you excel already and ones where you need to work. Make a list of 3 things you need to improve upon and then work upon them.

  5. Great Designers

    This is a short one written by yours truly. It talks about the struggles you might face when you are just getting started in design and when you look at the work of those you admire professionally. Once you have read this, make a list of your favorite designers. Now look at their body of work and try to articulate what in particular you like about it and what (if any) do you not like about their solutions.

  6. Keep Coming Back

    As you start practicing design as a profession, make it a point to keep coming back to this amazing collection of resources and brush up your skills again. It could be a course that you had particularly strong interest in or something that you did not give enough time in the first pass or maybe you want to brush up mobile design skills for your first iPad app! As you evolve as a designer your own understanding and interpretation of this course will change and it is always good to have such a handy resource at hand.

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