Photo by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash

Please stop saying you’re not a designer.

A love letter to non-designers from a designer who thinks you’re amazing at your job.

“I’m not a designer.”

This is something I hear almost every time I present work to a client, a project manager, or a coworker who doesn’t happen to have the word “designer” in their title.

It goes something like this: I set the stage by reminding the team about the project background, the primary goals and objectives, the scope of work, our previous discussions… and then launch into a walk-through of the work I’m presenting on my screen.

Sometimes it’s in-depth, going into color theory and user interactions, and other times it’s a haste overview, just checking the boxes of an ongoing project.

It could be a logo design, the wireframe of an email, or the third iteration of a marketing brochure.

It doesn’t really matter. The story is the same.

Eventually, I end my presentation and say something along the lines of “looking forward to hearing your feedback.”

I sit back, fingers poised, ready to begin typing or writing down notes with the inevitable revisions and next steps.

And the feedback commences. It’s almost always intelligent and thoughtful, polite but questioning, bringing up timelines and technical limitations into consideration. There might be mention of stakeholder concerns, some hole-poking in the content strategy, wondering out loud if there’s a way we can make it “pop more?”

(Most designers would roll their eyes at that final tidbit of feedback. I’m definitely guilty of it.)

And then, inevitably, a bookend to their thoughtful perspective, and often uttered as an apology:

“But I’m not a designer…”

Gonna hit the pause button right there because this is a real problem. And I try, playfully and kindly, in these conversations, to reassure the speaker that their feedback is invaluable.

And they brush it off because no, they “don’t have an artistic bone in their body” or “couldn’t push a pixel if their life depended on it.”

And that’s when I want to call a real time-out.

I don’t remember who said it, whether it was in a book I read or a mentor I spoke to after class, but this piece of paraphrased advice has burned a hole in my brain.

Untrained eyes still have the ability to identify real problems.

I hate to come off sounding grandiose or kumbaya-ing, but here goes nothing: All of us are designers. On a daily basis, each of us identify problems and obstacles, articulate goals, take our audience (whether that be consumers or family or friends) into consideration, and we generate solutions.

Anyone who has ever hosted a dinner party for any number of people is a designer.

Communicating the date and location to a group of people, planning a menu or scheduling delivery, keeping notes on your phone of what to order and when and who’s coming and who is allergic to what.

Anyone who has ever prepared for an important presentation is a designer.

Figuring out how long your presentation is, how many people will be there, if you’re using slides not, determining how complicated the idea might be for the audience.

Anyone who has ever solved any damn problem is a designer.

I’m tired of hearing a definition that’s purely reserved for “those who “make things pretty.”

If it solves a problem, then it is designed.

Design: VERB — To or plan (something) with a specific purpose or intention in mind.

Visual designers, using the common definition and on a baseline level (please don’t yell at me), are concerned with software and exports, and grids and fonts and colors and layouts and versions and so on and so forth.

Of course, that’s not all we do (although some days it sure feels like it, amirite?)

Sometimes we do forget about the other things, like stakeholder preferences or technical limitations. I do all the time. Which is why we need the account managers, the project managers, the copywriters, and the interns.

I’m not sure what the point of this article is, but maybe it’s this:

Please don’t discount the expertise of those who aren’t graced with the 8-letter-word in their job title. They are still trained, as most of us are (and from a very young age) to see inconsistencies and to feel, in our gut, when something doesn’t look quite right.

And to the account manager and project managers who keep us designers in check: please stop saying you’re not a designer. You’re helping us solve a problem.

You’re one of us.

Welcome.

P.S. This is my first article on Medium! ❤ Please let me know your thoughts by writing a quick comment on what I could improve on.

P.P.S. Idk about the relevancy of the photo; I was prompted to add one when I hit “Ready to Publish?” so *shrug*

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Lucy Darby

Lucy Darby

💻 ☕️ 📚 📝 I design brands and websites for business owners. #designbydarby 💙 @darbydesignco | www.lucydarby.com