Since my last post…
My first real post here got quite an unexpected amount of attention. This was both flattering and a bit scary. “Now people have expectations,” I thought to myself.
I wrote this article, then as usual I gave it to and editor to fix my grammar. Then I got this as a note: “By way of caution, I wouldn’t put that out on Medium.” The editor was trying to warn me that this article could potentially harm my reputation. “What reputation? No one cares!” was my next thought.
But it got to me.
I sent the article for a rewrite. I learned stuff about writing from the rewrite. But I’m not putting it online. Who needs another politically correct, generic advice post?
So below is version two of what I was trying to say.
All the writing advice I read says “write what you know”. I know stuff. But I’m not an expert of any of it. Well, maybe just one thing. I feel like I’m very good at being mediocre at my job, as UI/UX designer. I have mastered this skill for over ten plus years. For the last four years I’ve even been a full-time freelancer. And I’m really killing it at doing a mediocre job.
Now when I’m saying mediocre, here is what I mean. This is my scale: crappy, mediocre, great and master.
I believe being a master UI/UX designer is an impossible goal. It’s a moving target. Even if you devote all your time, it’s not going to happen. It’s a constantly evolving field where the rules are yet to be established.
So, really we are left with three skill levels: crappy, mediocre and great.
To be a great UI/UX designer in my book you have to be obsessed. And on top of that you have to be in the right place. It’s where the new rules of this field are made. Where all of the people that surround you are as equally obsessed as you. And together you spend all your time doing the thing and talking about it. I kinda envy those people. I really don’t know why.
Mediocre is where I’m at. Doing a decent job for my clients. That affords me a decent life where I have time for other more fun things than work. But instead of doing the fun stuff I think about work.
And the crappy UI/UX designer? Well, you know who you are. You recently changed your title in your all online profiles to this hip new one: “UI/UX designer”. However, you are not sure exactly how this thing works. Don’t worry, just keep at it. I was there a few years ago.
I’m not moving to Silicon Valley anytime soon. So, for me the real challenge is to stay mediocre. Do a decent job and have a life. Stop trying to consume every article, podcast and YouTube video on the topic.
And wonder… when is the fun and easy part is coming? I guess it’s right after you actively try to put yourself out of a job by writing silly articles confessing your mediocrity to the world.
So how do I restrict myself to achieving these mediocre results?
There are a couple of hard rules that I want to follow loosely:
- Have time doing other more fun stuff. Like sitting, doing nothing.
- Sitting on the computer for no more than 6 hours a day. I’ve fried my nervous system once already. Not fun!
- Making enough money so I’m not pressured to accept every job that comes my way. But not too much.
Have a life
Well, I’m not great at this, but I’m making an effort. It’s far easier to stay on my laptop and pretend that I’m working. This life thing, it’s far more demanding. You have to talk with people. Pretend that you care about their stuff. It’s exhausting. It feels like a performance to me. You have to run your lines in your head. Know your moves. Wear your costume. And at the end of the day you go to bed and everything starts replaying in your head. You start analysing how you did. Rehashing arguments. It’s harder than work.
But it’s also rewarding. Spending some time with people talking. Walking in nature. Playing some silly games. Drawing some dumb ideas. Doing some sport. Sport you can definitely get addicted to. And it’s definitely better than Netflix. Once upon a time the previous sentence would end with the word “sex”, but we live in different times now.
Do the work of two people
The cost of doing a great job at this is that you have to perform super-complex tasks on a daily basis. And this is just for doing one or the other. And when you combine UI and UX at once, it’s impossible to keep the level of quality you desire.
Keep shoving content in to your brain, like there is no tomorrow
Even being a mediocre UI/UX designer needs a lot of maintenance, keeping up with the ever-evolving topic and the tools.
Maybe the real question is — how much learning is enough learning? That will keep you in the loop so you don’t get blindsided mid-project with something you know nothing about.
It’s impossible to measure. So, to be on the safe side, pick up your phone and start reading this eBook you bought a few months ago instead of daydreaming and having fun. I’m kidding. But not really.
How do you know if you know enough?
Greatness is untenable in some circumstances.
I like what I do and I want to keep doing it. But it also seems a bit unhealthy. As such, change is in order.
What type of change?
Going all in, buying a one-way ticket to Silicon Valley, and becoming one of the maniacs I admire so much?
Or try to relax for a bit and narrow the type of work I do?
I guess this is what I will write about next.
PS: this post turns out to be more confusing then the design of old enterprise software. You are not sure what is the purpose of it. Me neither.