Being a self-taught designer has many upsides. There’s the opportunity to learn by doing, own your education and freedom to explore.
At the earliest stages, all attempts at design were mirroring the steps seen in tutorials, articles and courses. It was one to one mapping and it works well for simple problems.
With growth, messier problems presented themselves. These problems are almost always more unwieldy, buried under things like stakeholder expectations, resource constraints and ill-defined scope that have to unravel before tackling the problem.
Early this year, I concluded the Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking course from the Interaction Design Foundation where I learnt the Hasso Platner institute’s 5 step approach to design thinking.
Empathize. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test.
On paper (or screen), simple. I understand their potential to help solve hard design problems. Nevertheless, I struggled to apply these concepts.
The problem wasn’t with the design process, but how I applied it. I was convinced that the process had to be followed and felt guilty whenever I had to abandon some or all of it.
Jeff Bezos wrote in one of the Amazon annual shareholder letters, the problem of “using process as proxy”.
That led taught me that… the design process is not the point.
Use the process to the degree that it adds value (makes the solution more robust, faster, innovative, gives clarity) to the solution that is being created for the end user.
My process at this point is to pay attention to each problem, understand all the dynamics at play, watch for opportunities where the design techniques and concepts will benefit.
Then, abandon the useless (read inapplicable to current problem) parts and then, DO NOT feel guilty about it.