Usually when I ask designers what “good” means, they don’t want to define it. This fascinates me, so I hunted for definitions and found eight.
I hope this list is useful if you want to become a better designer but don’t know what that looks like.
These definitions focus on the impact noticed by other people as a result of the designer.
The designer moves whatever needle needs to be moved. Perhaps the conversion rate goes up by 5% when their design is built and released, or internal teams get their work done 50% faster because of improvements to internal tools.
The designer is able to produce something to suit the taste of whichever audience they design for. Their visual design is technically excellent because they have good knowledge of the rules of visual design.
The designer comes up with ideas that others hadn’t thought of.
The designer knows everything about design. If you have a question about design theory, this is the first person you go to. They recommend books, articles, videos, other designers, websites, and more. They have a vast library of design patterns in their head.
The designer has Apple, Stripe, Nike, and Airbnb in their portfolio. Don’t dismiss this because it’s cynical. One of the most important definitions of ”good designer” is whichever one the hiring manager believes. The companies you have worked with play a part in the decision to accept you.
The designer’s output is very good, regardless of the outcomes. They have a productive attitude to their work and are willing to get stuck into anything and see it through.
The designer is humble, and a good listener. They understand their teammates’ work, needs, and language. They’re able to present their designs effectively to anyone. They can sell their work. This is about good collaboration and communication.
There is already overlap between the work of designers and product managers. In smaller organisations where there is no product manager, a good designer might be expected to deeply understand the business, its customers, and the problem (and reframe it where needed). They might also be partly responsible for product vision.