Like an engineer would have stated: it depends ?
My skill set really doesn’t strongly suggest visual design. But yes, I’m a UX Designer, for sure. And I’m confident enough to add that I’m pretty good at it. But I’m not the pixel acrobatic.
Side note: you’re unsure about your own skill set or how to put your superpowers? Find a handy tool at the end of this post.
Yes there are plenty of reasons why a UX Designer’s skill set should include strongly developed skills in visual design. No wonder, as most of the results of our work are visual– at least superficially. And so most of us designers are really good– you guess it– designers. But this doesn’t have to be the case for all of us.
We sometimes tend to forget for whom we design what and why–forget to ask the simplest basic questions before we jump into our work. Answering those questions is fundamental for achieving results that go beyond the visual experience of websites, products, etc. In lots of CVs and portfolios, there are lacking other parts of the skill set. That’s my impression, after having reviewed a lot of UX portfolios in the last few years.
Focus and find your balance
Recently I did a small design exercise. The reason was the visual design of a new feature that we wanted to test a/b. It still looked strongly prototypesque and broken from a visual point of view, although maybe enough for a/b testing a certain hypothesis.
I took this as an opportunity to do a little design exercise for myself. I opened Sketch and worked very focused on resolving the visual part of the feature. After two hours I realized, that I got a muddled feeling. I lost focus. The focus on use cases, corner cases, interaction design, and other parts. That is, the things that also strongly influence and complement graphic design. I was already pretty satisfied with the result, but at the same time doubts raised. Did I lose track of the problem’s root? Maybe, maybe not. So I conceptually checked my draft against the requirements and use cases that were in my mind. I became safer again, but couldn’t get in a confident state of mind.
Maybe the feeling of uncertainty raised because I don’t feel comfortable in the visual design area of the UX Designer’s skill set and because there are masters within my team, who are great at designing.
It’s vital for the individual, but also for the whole team, to be aware of the spectrum of your skill set. Find out how the different skills complement, to focus and balance the whole out. Your mindset and cross-functional teamwork make up the rest. Of course also the willingness to learn something new every day.
What’s your UX spectrum?
Preparing for a team workshop I came across the so-called UX Spectrum. The tool was originally used for recruiting purposes, but it’s also very helpful for training purposes within your team.
For me, it was a handy tool for balancing out my skill set as a UX Designer. It gives you a quick visual overview of your own skill set, under different aspects. To lead you to self-reflection. You can also use it together as a team and find out how to balance the skill set as a whole and find your path to growth as a team.
As preparation for our workshop, everyone had the task to think about the shape of their own skill set. Then to transfer the results of the self-assessment into the tool and to share them.
Each individual determined their skill set by thinking about their capabilities, talents, and interests. To finally score them against, what in his/her opinion, is most relevant in their role and for their daily work. The scores aren’t based on a list of precisely defined criteria. Who will always put themselves in the highest score? 😉
We then superimposed all the individual diagrams and discovered our common skill set – 6 people, 17% opacity 🙂 Next image showing the overlay of our six individual skill sets.
You’ll, for example, find that the not-enough designer in me is complemented by others, whose skill sets are more distinct in the creative field.
It’s not an exact science and it may not reflect the team’s precise potential and performance. But it’s a great group exercise. It opens up the space for discussion and ongoing growth as individuals and as a team.