I had the pleasure of hearing Joel Califa’s “Full Stack Anxiety” talk at the most recent Designer News NYC Meetup.
His message resonated strongly with me, a self-proclaimed “unicorn” who is just as excited by the typographic nuances of Apple’s San Francisco typeface as he is by the newly introduced spread operator in ECMAScript 6 (ES6).
I was intrigued by Joel’s thesis, roughly summarized in this 2015 tweet.
Joel went on to explain that unicorns (“hybrids”, “designers who code” — take your pick) are increasingly encumbered by higher-and-higher professional expectations to do all the things™. Using the metaphor of the T-Shaped Designer as an example, he poked a hole in the notion that a designer should be expected to simultaneously master illustration, visual design, coding, 3D modeling, and baking a killer molten chocolate soufflé (well, that last one might be an exaggeration).
While it may be easy for some of us to sit back and laugh at these unrealistic expectations, it’s important to note that if left unmanaged, these expectations can send a designer down a path of confusion, self-doubt, and professional paralysis altogether. And as someone who has been there, let me just say: