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Eight definitions of “good designer”

What makes a designer “good”? Not many designers are willing or able to define it. These are the definitions I’ve come across. Not everyone will agree that all of these make a good designer, but I assume that everyone agrees with at least one of them, even if they don’t admit it.

I hope this list will be useful to anyone who wants to become a better designer but is held back because they don’t know what “better” means. Pick one or more of the definitions below, and aim for it.

These definitions focus on the end result—and more importantly the impact noticed by people around the designer—and not the methods used to get there.

A good designer gets results

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.

A good designer gets stuff done

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.

A good designer produces beautiful visual design

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.

A good designer encourages understanding and convinces others

The designer is humble, and a good listener. They understand their teammates‘ work, as well as their needs, and they can speak their language. They’re able to present their designs effectively to anyone, at any level, and any size audience. They can sell their work. This about good collaboration and communication.

A good designer is a good product manager

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.

A good designer is knowledgeable

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.

A good designer is creative

The designer comes up with ideas you would never have thought of in a million years.

A good designer has worked with impressive companies

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 is in the hiring manager’s head. More often than not the companies you have worked with play a part in that definition.