Design Mentoring

I've served as a mentor to many people over my career and have also learned a lot from the people who have mentored me. In fact, it was my mentees and mentors who inspired me to start the UXDesignCast and Life Habits podcasts. My experience of late communicating regularly with the more that 3,000 people who follow my two Twitter accounts gave me the idea to collect some mentoring wisdom from this crowd that I could share with everyone. I asked two questions that yielded some great responses.

What's the one thing you didn't learn in design (or other) school that you now believe is key to success?

  • How to play nicely with others -- art of influence versus trying to solo
  • Entrepreneurship, client communication, proper valuation of work
  • On the job there are way more people involved in the iterative process than there were in school; things aren't as flexible
  • Trusting your gut, "liking" the people you hire, and always standing up for what you believe in
  • Working with people across differences in discipline, background, and power - design as a social practice emphasizing diversity
  • How to listen -substantially underestimated
  • Speed is key to iteration. Trial & error trumps genius. Perfect is enemy of the good
  • Soft skills like persuasion, communication to marketing, developers, sales, CEO's, negotiating

What's the most insightful, interesting, or valuable thing anyone ever told you about design?



  • Best advice re design "simplicity, less is more, balance, specialist generalist, implicit communication, realign, define problem, iterate, reflect".
  • That you don't have to be "a designer" to be a designer
  • All Display Is No Display” From newspaper editor on art of balancing headlines (display) art & text.
  • (Industrial) Designers are "Specialists Generalists"; they need to know something about everything in order to do their jobs.
  • Design = implicit communication
  • Realign not redesign
  • Clearly define the problem, iterate often and step away regularly in order to reflect.
  • It was in London, during a lecture, someone told me : "every morning you are a designer" because of clothing.
  • "That is painful to look at."

I'd like to thank all those who provided input on this via Twitter and would like to invite you to contribute any additional thoughts you may have on either of these questions using the commenting capability of this blog.