Recently, I finished re-reading Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro. It’s a handbook for designers. Even though it was my second time through, I still found it just as humorous, insightful, and groundbreaking as the first time. Topics range from working with everyone from clients to coworkers, receiving payments, delivering designs, and managing feedback. It’s a treasure trove of useful information for designers of all skill levels.
While reading, I found that one concept really kept resonating with me: you are responsible for the work you put out into the world.
During my career, I’ve put out a lot of work I wasn’t happy with, and a lot of work I wasn’t proud of. Sometimes it was because we ran out of time (I’ve had to pull together sites with under 10 hours of design budget for the whole project. Note for people making budgets: Never do this. Ever.). Sometimes it was because the client wanted it a certain way, and the client was allowed to make the final decision (I rallied against this. Every time. And every time, I lost that battle.) Sometimes, honestly, it was because I was lazy. Sometimes, I would think, “it’s okay that this work is subpar, because I’ve tried to stick up for my design before, tried to fight for the integrity of my work, and I failed. Maybe next time I’ll try harder. Maybe next time I won’t give up.”
But during that time, I didn’t. Even if I did try harder, I didn’t win. Ultimately, the client was always allowed to override design decisions. It was infuriating. It was degrading. And it should never have happened.
A while ago, I was the designer on a project that went downhill very quickly for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons, though, was our inability to control client feedback and expectations. While I’m not sure the project would have ever gone smoothly, it could have gone a hell of a lot better. The client was allowed to make a lot of design decisions. He would even create elaborate videos about his feedback where he would demonstrate the design changes he wanted. He would change our mockups and send them back to us. By the end of the project, I was a glorified pixel pusher. I objected throughout the whole process, and when I finally said I that I could not in good conscious continue to work on this project, I was told that I needed to get over it, and that I needed to finish the project so no one else had to pick up my slack. I needed to make everyone’s life easier and just make the changes the client demanded.
So I caved. I did it, but I bitterly regretted it. I still regret it. It was the wrong decision. I should have said no. I hated the final product. And one of the worst things? In the end, the client never even used the site. It got launched with dummy content, and remains launched with dummy content, years later.
Of course, that was a long time ago. Where does this put me now? Overall, pretty satisfied with my career. I’ve moved on to places that recognize the need for quality work, and ownership of the design process by those who have been hired for that task: designers. It’s been quite a while since I’ve put out work I was dissatisfied with. I feel proud as a designer, and I never want to slip back into pushing our subpar work again. I am responsible for the work I put out into the world.
Design is a Job isn’t just a book about the design industry. It’s validation for all those times I fought for the integrity of my work. It’s a mentor. It should be every designer’s bible.
If anything, read it for the lady bengal tigers. See? It’s already piqued your interest.