Five Key Skills Designers Should Hone and Often Don't

What skills do you think most designers have under-invested in? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ben Blumenfeld, Co-Director at Designer Fund, former Design Lead at Facebook, on Quora.

I think a lot about how to develop world-class designers, both for our professional development program, Bridge, and for our many portfolio companies who are building effective design teams. Unfortunately, the infrastructure to develop great designers is lagging far behind the demand from companies for impactful, well-rounded designers. From our research, here are a few skills that many companies say their best design leaders have but that many designers have under-invested in:

Facilitation - The best design leaders are effective facilitators. In meetings they understand when to push for more ideas, when to rally the team around an idea, when to play devil's advocate, and when to shut up. This is a skill you can absolutely learn and be trained in and is one that is on the radar of few designers.

Presentation/Public Speaking - So much of design these days is presenting your ideas to others and getting them to rally around your solution. The best designers communicate crisply, command a room, and inspire others with their vision of the future. While design has its share of introverts, public speaking is absolutely a learnable skill but one that takes practice, desire, and training to hone.

Grit - A former coworker of mine once worked at Apple. He told me he was once put on a project there where he was required to come up with at least 10 pixel-perfect solutions every week that would be reviewed by Steve Jobs. If Steve didn't like any of them it was back to the drawing board next week. And he wasn't alone--two agencies and two other designers were charged with the same directive! Then one day, Steve flipped through his designs, pointed to one, and said, "That's the one." When I asked him what kept him from giving up he said, "I just have this desire to outlast everyone around me." Clearly he has an innate drive the fires him past iteration 10, 100, etc. but designers can train that muscle. It takes effort and is sometimes painful but often the best outcomes come from iterating on a solution many times over.

Visual design - Today's designers are entering design from a much broader set of backgrounds. We see many designers now coming from a breadth of backgrounds like human-computer interaction, psychology, film, architecture, business, communication, and the list goes on. What this means is that many of them haven't had formal visual design training. The ability to discuss why a typeface works, how to adjust spacing or color to create a harmonious composition, or how to effectively move someone through a process using visual design is unfortunately beyond the skills of many designers today.

While some people have an innate talent for visual design, it is also a skill that can be developed through hours, weeks, months, and years of practice and training. There are some great online resources here as well like Creative Live or Jessica Hische's Typography class. If you're looking to be a world-class designer do not overlook developing this fundamental skill.

Code - If you're working on tech products and services you should at the very least understand enough code to communicate effectively with your engineers. With so many design tools like Framer enabling designers to use code to communicate their designs and stress test their ideas, it has become a skill that really separates good product designers from great ones. With the wealth of online courses on services like SkillshareCoursera, and Udemy, there is little excuse for not taking the time to develop basic programming skills as a designer today.

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