Growing up

I am not a designer. I just do design

By April 21, 2019 September 30th, 2020 No Comments
Desiger reflecting

Great! just what you needed! Another clickbait title. Hurray! Or is it? You see, I don’t like referring to myself as a “designer”. In fact, the only terms with which I’m comfortable are person, human being, man, individual, citizen and sometimes, just sometimes, professional. The idea of reducing one’s entire existence into one word is contradictory to everything that I stand for. It’s offensive to me. Furthermore, if I absolutely have to choose just one word, I assure you that it’s not going to be a designer. I just don’t feel like a designer. Or at least, I’m an atypical designer.

I’m not into “designery” stuff

I tried macs but didn’t like macOS. I like windows better and I prefer Android too. I’m bad at sketching, my handwriting is horrible and I dislike post-it notes. I look like an accountant: no tattoos, no body piercings or any other kind of self-mutilation. No jewelry, no glasses, and no hats whatsoever. I have regular-guy hair, I keep my facial hair trimmed, I button up my shirts (but not the last button or two because I’m not a Mexican gangster) and tuck them in my pants because I realize that I’m over 14 years of age. I don’t have ripped jeans, no chain hanging, no bandanna, no bow-tie, no magic wand, no rainbow rocket, no nothing. I think Sketch is awesome but XD is already better in many ways. And oh, by the way, I’m still not over the good ol’ Photoshop and I never will.

I don’t behave like a “designer”

Not convinced? Here’s another crack at it. I don’t go to designer meetups, get-togethers, open mics or any other kind of self-advertising endeavors. I am not part of a designers group, association, movement, community, pact, tribe or militia. And no, I can’t recommend anyone to do your project instead of me because honestly, I don’t know any other designers! That’s because I didn’t go to design school, I went to a military academy and got a “degree” in engineering. I try to avoid fancy words that nobody understands like co-design and UX writing. Call me old fashioned but I still say silly words like collaboration and copy. I still say information and idea more than I say data and concept. And what the hell is design thinking anyway? I’ve been practicing it for several years now. I just call it thinking. You should try it. It’s awesome.

I don’t thrive on attention

I’m a serious person, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I like to talk and I love to write, but I don’t thrive on attention. I don’t talk as if I knew things more important than the things you know. I write quirky, snarky, nerdy, controversial, sarcastic, in-depth, well-thought-out rants about intelligent subjects for people who want them. I don’t write bite-sized, dumbed-down, superficial, one-size-fits-all ramblings for the masses. It’s sometimes angry, often cynical, and always a bit misguided. I don’t write recipes for success, I don’t have a list of productivity tips, I don’t have a list of ten reasons why Figma is the next big thing, I don’t have a list of all the lists I keep and I sure as hell don’t think I can help you.

I enjoy showcasing my work, I love to be read, I like to be noticed and I appreciate being praised. I don’t think I’m your average Joe and I enjoy being reminded of that. But I will not put on any effort whatsoever towards those results. I’m not driven by my need to belong to some groups of people. I don’t thrive on compliance with a stereotype. I’m not looking for your approval, your praise and certainly not your validation. I’m just admitting that it feels good when I get it but that’s about the extent of it. None of this is for you, it’s all for me. I am open to sharing it though if you find a place in your heart for it.

I despise all labels, not just “Designer”

So no sir, I won’t tell you If I’m a UI designer or a UX designer or both because I am neither. I also am not a design strategist, architect, researcher, prodigy, ninja or superhero, and I certainly am not a freaking lifestyle designer because that’s a bullshit job and it doesn’t exist. “Life coach” was already bad enough. And one more thing: I will surely stop referring to myself as a full-stack designer because it’s unoriginal, sounds pretentious and I never fully embraced it, to be honest.

So after all, am I a designer or not? For years, I used to suffer from a crippling case of impostor syndrome that I powered through thanks to a unique combination of financial instability and sheer arrogance. But now I never question whether or not I have what it takes to do design for a living. True, I didn’t go to design school, but I sure as hell know a lot about typography, composition, information hierarchy, colors and psychology, more than enough to fill any relevant design role in any self-respecting company. But does that make me a designer? I would argue that it doesn’t.

“Designer” is not a lifestyle job

I think that design is something you do, but designer is not something you are, but it’s a mere reference to the state of you performing that task. Outside of that, you’re just a person. “Designer” is not like “artist”, “philosopher”, “athlete”, “entrepreneur”, and “politician”. A designer is just a role. It’s a job description. It’s not a mindset. It’s not a way of living and interacting with the world.

An artist is an artist 24/7. They can’t help it, they can’t turn it off. It’s not what they do, it’s who they are. Same with “athlete”. Just because you take a shower after your workout doesn’t mean you seize being an athlete. It’s a lifestyle, and everything is a part of it, even the dinner you eat, the friends you hang out with. “Designer” isn’t, no matter how many post-it notes you carry with you to the supermarket, no matter how many usability tests you conduct on the stupid microwave oven.

It doesn’t have to be

The good news is that it shouldn’t be a lifestyle type of job. Engineer, designer, manager, salesperson, judge, lawyer are all “just jobs”. No matter how stressed you can be, no matter how much pressure, if you have the right skill set to navigate the daily stress, you can block it all out when you go home and still get back to it the next morning. Sure, they have varying degrees of influence on your day-to-day decisions and the way you conduct yourself, but not to the point where it becomes your life. You can make it so, but it’s not inherently built into it.

However, contrast that with what a politician has to go through. Or again, do you think that a musician can “unhear” the sounds of the world when they come out of the studio? Do you think a poet can “unnoticed” the mumblings we call conversations?” This is why it’s okay for me when people call themselves artists but isn’t okay when they call themselves designers.

Where is this coming from?

I don’t appreciate tags

I often wonder what people who love these tags feel. What does a designer feel like when they get up in the morning? Do they instantly feel like a designer? Or do they start to acquire that feeling after a few cups of coffee? What does an athlete feel like when she wakes up at 5 am? Does she feel athletic? Does she think about it? Does she go: “I better get out of bed and go be the athlete that I am”? These are serious questions that I wonder about. This is what I spend my free time contemplating. This is what keeps me up at night. These questions are the reasons why I’m an under-achiever.

There was a time when I had a tag

I can’t tell you about other people, but there was a time when I myself had a label and accepted it. At that time, I didn’t wear it with pride, didn’t communicate it, didn’t even think about it, but at the very least, I had no problem with it.

I was an “entrepreneur”, a “startupper” if you will. I was kind of proud of that. To this day I still don’t have too much of an issue with that label. I felt like an entrepreneur when I got up in the morning. what I said to myself was  myself: “holy moly, it’s almost 7 am, I gotta go do entrepreneurial things!” I watched the shows, read the books, talked the talk and walked the walk. My whole life revolved around the idea that I was an entrepreneur. That came with a set of expectations that I set for myself. It gave me a sense of direction and a benchmark to measure whether or not I was a fraud. I don’t feel that with “designer”.

I don’t think “designer” allows for the same experience. That’s why we give it this whole foliage of sticky notes and unnecessary titles and come up with fancy processes and try to make things sound complicated. They’re not. It’s just very important and it needs doing, so we do it. It’s not who we are, it’s what we do, and you can easily see how those would be confused.

Ghaith Ayadi

Ghaith Ayadi

I’m Ghaith Ayadi [ɣaajθ ʕajadiː]. I am an entrepreneur who writes and designs. I specialize in Product Design and Branding and write about design, entrepreneurship, growing up and other things that matter. I currently do freelance work while I’m working on my next big thing. Reach me on: yo@ayadighaith.com