Passions in Design: which phase are you in right now?

Design itself is a passion, but like any passion, it has phases and intensities. Let’s explore some of them.

Abstract illustration of two people hugging with their faces close to each other: the first throws his back into the arms of the second with his arms up, who hugs him and holds his neck.
Copyright: Mark Kostabi / Artist’s Estate

Passion for tools

If you, like me, started in graphic design, this was probably your first love.

Photoshop, Illustrator — even CorelDRAW — and newer tools like Figma or Adobe XD. An infinite world of possibilities opens up and tutorials become your company.

You feel the power in your hands and making is your motivation.

Passion for visual

There comes a time when mastering shortcuts and macros is no longer enough. There is no contentment in just doing. You want to do well.

Then you notice something that has always been there but now more attractive: good practices and standards.

You created it, but you didn’t imagine there was a “correct” way to do it. Size, location, border, colors, and even empty space. All this now not only matters, but is also your form of expression. You see yourself at your job.

Perhaps this is the most “artistic” phase of all passions — but reality arrives (it always arrives).

Passion for the function

As we’re designers (and not artists) our work cannot be just expression.

We realize that our creations are for other people, and must fulfill their needs.

We trade what for how: frameworks, dynamics, workshops, methods, and techniques.

I dare say that, here, we take a step beyond passion and feel… love. That’s because it takes love to get out of the bubble of selfishness and project beyond ourselves.

Designers even fall in love with empathy and believe that a stuffed utility belt is the best way to understand the people they need to design for.

That’s where the passion probably lasts the longest. This is because it takes time to master so many ways of doing something, and because of the praise and appreciation it receives. You don’t want to lose this, do you?

Passion for processes

One day, after so much executing the techniques he learned, a question arises:

“Is there a better way to do this?”

That was all it took to summon them: the processes. The most overwhelming and dangerous of passions.

Stages, steps, phases… All that we did for all this time lived in a reality that we had no clarity.

Now, with our eyes open, we see a new world that exists in an organized, structured way and that has a name.

We can only hold his hands and follow him at any cost, exactly as he tells us we must follow.

There are no stop points or adaptations: trust the process.

Some people never leave here for many reasons, but one of them is because there are many processes. Just like us, they have quality and flaws, and we need (even want) to go through several of them.

Passion for systems

Just when we thought we had seen the full reality, it finally dawned on us: the process (our beloved one) was betraying us.

It is the phase of polyamory: the process lived with another. And with another. And they all lived together in one system.

Now everything makes sense, and we understand that we are part of a great gear. It is where the universe of the design system lives, components, tokens, and an organization that is collaboratively intertwined — like a great ring around the rosie.

It’s the time when you feel like you belong to something bigger.

Passion for structure

Even though I understand that things are connected, something still doesn’t work. Some pieces walk at different paces or do not walk at all. What happens?

Here, we take a first step towards “mature passion”:

  • Mature, as we recognize the commitment we have to the order of things
  • First step, because it is still an internal movement (even with external consequences)

It’s a frustrating and even confusing time. The feeling of identity crisis it is common because it seems that we are distancing ourselves from our craft.

You ask: “And everything we live, Design?”.

He answers:“It’s Ops now”.

Management, organization, leadership and evolution become the topics of your conversations.

Even though it’s an “unrequited” passion, seeing things work out makes every second worth it.

Passion for principles

All organized structurally, but there is still a twinge in our chest: where are we going?

Here the dialogue with Design is essential. You discuss sensitive topics: ethics, responsibility, consequences, accessibility and inclusion, politics, the future and everything you previously avoided touching.

You wonder if it’s still worth staying together, or it’s time to say goodbye. It’s exhausting and often demotivating — but it’s an equivalent exchange.

Finally, they come to an agreement and truly understand what it takes to move forward.

It takes a lot of time for introspection and reflection, but at last there is hope; for you and for those yet to come.


Was this the last crush?

Luckily, Design is not monogamous. No passion needs to be lived exclusively and we can fall in love (and remain in love) at every stage.

Note that I tried not to assign moral value or importance to any particular phase; simply because every phase matters.

Each designer lives a moment of life and career internally (and the market and company externally), so importance or value is relative to each person.

It’s also not possible to fall in love really for a phase without having fallen in love with the previous one; because — even if they are not strictly linear — they are related to each other. Trying to “skip stages”, as Fabricio Teixeira would say, is:

“[…] soon enough, more experienced people will start seeing through you.”

In the end, it all comes down to the people; the only love (not a crush) that will last.

Therefore, to move forward, we just need to understand where we are and what we can best offer now.

Meanwhile, allow yourself to fall in love.


Passions in Design: which phase are you in right now? was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.






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