Shhh. Don’t tell the new designers.

Some things they just have to learn for themselves.

  • It’s a lot of rectangles.
  • 32% of your time will be spent labeling buttons.
  • Blood will be shed over any question that begins, “Should designers…”.
  • All the research in the world is no match for your CEO’s opinion.
  • Perfect may be the enemy of the good, but that won’t stop you from trying.
  • The design will fail on one platform, and that platform will be the one your boss uses.
  • The biggest blocker to career growth will be the need to update your portfolio.
  • You may be a user, but you’re not the user.
  • The delta between what you designed and what gets shipped can be measured in light years.
  • You don’t label and organize your layers because you work on tight deadlines. Other designers don’t label and organize their layers because they’re lazy sociopaths.
  • A hundred successful happy paths can be ruined by a single unaddressed edge case. Related: no project plan includes time to design for edge cases.
  • The best idea will come to you while riding a bike, kneading bread, prepping for a colonoscopy, or any other time you can’t act on it.
  • You’ll claim to avoid trends and predictable conventions. Hindsight will reveal you followed trends and predictable conventions.
  • You need a layered PSD. You will get a flattened JPEG.
  • Anyone who shames designers for having to occasionally rely on placeholder text can lorem ipsum themselves. (Anyway, here’s a good alternative.)
  • Agency designers have had their souls crushed, but they rarely miss a deadline.
  • You say you won’t Detach Instances. You will Detach Instances.
  • No one cares where you studied design. Related: the most important design courses aren’t design courses.
  • A/B tests are the wrong way to evaluate brand strategies. You’ll be asked to design A/B tests to evaluate brand strategies.
  • Agile is mostly Waterfall set to repeat.
  • Personas are more dangerous than useful, but they’re fun to make.
  • Some will accuse you of fetishizing fonts. You’ll try to dissuade them with a lengthy, abstruse oration on the merits of good typography.
  • Brainstorming largely involves gathering ideas and insights from across the org, then ignoring them.
  • The budget for photography and illustration will always be $0.
  • There’s a 76.3% chance the client or stakeholder will choose the worst option you present. Corollary: make sure your worst option is a good option.
  • You’ll come to feel you’re living in a hellscape created by other designers.
  • You’ll grow tired of asking for “a seat at the table.”
  • Someone will invariably ask why you can’t just ship the prototype.
  • The required font will always be missing.

Gatekeeping? Nope. Every profession has its dark truths—the kinds of truths that could thwart a new recruit. Design is no different.

On the other hand, we get to make stuff. We’re paid to use our brains and our creativity to bring new ideas into the world. If we’re fortunate and aim our talents in the right direction, we can help make people’s lives a little safer, more meaningful, and entertaining. Seems like a pretty fair tradeoff for the petty annoyances and frustrations that hop along for the ride.

So, what are your dark truths about the design profession? Share them in the comments. Clap and share if you enjoyed this, and please subscribe to get my latest stories.

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