What does it mean to be a Designer?

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the title “Designer”. Chances are, you probably thought of someone who works with graphics or possibly even interfaces. It’s 2018, and the word design itself is synonymous with the concept of art, something relatively visual and, for the lack of a better word, pretty.

However, I’m starting to believe that that’s an issue. Not everything that needs to be designed has to be visual. UX Designers are often confused with UI Designers, and although a lot of UX Designers are excellent at creating interfaces, it’s more of an addition to their skills rather than being a requirement for UX. Personally, I believe UX has a lot more to do with research and communication, and a lot less to do with choosing the right border radius for a button or understanding the 8pt grid (althought if you do want to understand the 8pt grid, that blog post by Bryn Jackson is very, very good).

I’m not saying anything like “no one knows what design is” because to be honest, I don’t even know what a design is. In Indonesia especially, the perception of a designer is someone who works in Figma or Photoshop. However, I would say I’m a designer, but my preferred design tool is Gliffy. I may not understand color theory or know how to illustrate, but I do know my way around UML and Class Diagrams. I’m not the best at visuals, but I would say I’m pretty darn good at designing a database with SQL or crafting up an ERD (Entity Relationship Diagram).

I’ll keep this blog post short, but essentially what I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to be an artist to be a designer. Those two titles are not mutually exclusive. They can exist harmoniously, but they don’t have to. In the past I’ve been guilty of thinking of the title “Designer” in this sense. I’ve even said that I’m not a designer. However, after giving it more thought, I am a designer. A systems designer, and I’m pretty happy with that title.