This week I read a blog post by Rachel Andrew titled ‘Confidence and Overwhelm’. In this post, Rachel first talks about the fast moving nature of the web industry and the way some people feel overwhelmed by the pace at which new tools and methodology arise. I was instantly hooked because “yoo-hoo, over here!” I am exactly one of these people. In my very first entry for this blog, I wrote about stumbling into a design career as a self taught designer and the constant nagging question of “do I know everything I should/need to know?”. A few weeks ago, I wrote this nonsensical post when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by how far behind I thought I was. The way that post reads—that is, without a lot of sense—is an exact representation of my state of mind that day.
Rachel then goes on to explain that because she has strong base knowledge in the way the web works, in the languages she uses and in the way people use the things she creates, she has the confidence to not to be one of these people. She has the confidence to be upfront and honest if she hasn’t tried the latest tool or adopted the latest methodology because at the end of the day, she knows her stuff and is still delivering good quality work. For me, it’s not that I don’t feel comfortable saying “I don’t know” or “I haven’t used that before”, it’s more that, despite being comfortable doing this, I still feel bad—internally—about not knowing or adopting the same things other people have. I’ve come to a point where I’ll cringe if I have to tell people I still don’t use Sketch and worry if they’ve judged me. I have strong foundational knowledge of HTML/CSS, but what-the-hell-is-Grunt-and-minify-what-now?
Reading Rachel’s post was not a light bulb moment; I know that the mastery of tools is not what makes you a good designer. Instead, it was more of a victorious moment. Upon finishing reading Rachel’s post I think I actually threw out a legitimate fist pump from happiness. It was great to see a person—who I think is quite an authority in the industry—come out and say that all of this extra fancy stuff is not the be-all and end-all. Pick up these things where you have the interest and the time but don’t stress about picking up all of this fast-moving, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stuff all of the time. Instead, focus on really understanding the base/core information; that stuff moves at a much slower pace and is actually the most important stuff.
I came away from reading the post realising that just like Rachel is spending her time building a great, quality product, I am pushing out designs that (I hope) are getting better by the day. Have I changed anything tools-wise since I first started? Not really. Have I adopted a radically different workflow because a conference speaker told me to? Not that I can recall. Has a nicely designed tool that promised to revolutionise a designer’s world actually changed My-LiFe as a designer? Nope. So what the heck am I so worried about?
Have I continued to practice the application of basic design principles? Yep.