Non-Design Skills Needed by Designers

Like in many other specialised fields, to become a great designer one must master or be acquainted with many non-design skills.

User interface designer Aza Raskin — ex-Creative Lead at Firefox and son of Jef — offers up this list of what he believes to be most important to do and master in order to become a designer:

  1. The Hardest Part of Software is Culture. Get a Book on Negotiation. If you cannot communicate, you will fail. If you cannot convince, you will fail. If you cannot listen, you will fail. […] To design is to inspire participation. Unless we can let our ideas become other people’s ideas—get others to want to champion design as their own—we will not be successful. […] The hardest part of your job isn’t being creative or brilliant; it’s communicating and culture.
  2. Know Cognitive Psychology. You are designing for people; you need to be well versed in the abilities and frailties of the human mind. […] Interface design is as much a science as it is an art. Know the science, else you are walking blindly through a minefield of harmful design.
  3. Learn to Program, Even if Poorly. Thucydides wrote, “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” The optimal society is one that mixes scholar-warriors and warrior-scholars. The same is true for companies that schism their designers and engineers.
  4. Create, Create, Create. You’ll need thousands of hours of practice to rise to the top of your game. […] If you don’t have dozens of little projects you’ve created, learned from, and even discarded, you are doing it wrong.
  5. Study Graphic Design. Looks affect usability. Looks are just one aspect of designing for emotional beings—you need to think about the whole sensory experience of an object, from sound to touch—but looks are often the most immediately apparent.