"Do you wanna focus on design or development?", people I worked with used to say all the time "It'd be good for us to know so we know where your career is going". For a while I thought I had to decide but I eventually decided to pursue right what is in between, the middle between Design & Development.
I still think that my sweet spot of talent and experience is right there, but after a few months of deliberation, I have come to decision to not pursue design as a career path any longer.
What it wasSection titled What it was
I found my way to the web platform via Graphic Design. I made wallpapers, avatars, signatures, etc. But I did fall in love with HTML and CSS when someone asked me to design a website and told me that would need to learn HTML & CSS in order to delivery.
That website never came to be, but I had gotten hooked on the platform. I devoured books and blogs like crazy about everything HTML and CSS - but always as a designer, in which Code allowed me to manifest what I had envisioned.
I eventually ended up never having only a design job. Design was always part of it, but I was always a Designer & Developer Hybrid. When I got my first job, "Web Designers" were expected to be proficient in HTML & CSS as well. But I quickly learned that design was judged very differently from code.
Nobody cared about what the code looked like. They wanted results. But design was different. Not only did they only care about what it looked like and didn't care about results at all (or more like, they didn't correlate visual design with success or failure on the business side) but instead they saw it as an extension of themselves.
Whereas with Code, I was explicitly given Expertise, as in, the trusted power to decide, in Design, the Expertise was always conditioned on how much I was able to bring forth what the client was not able to express without me.
What it isSection titled What it is
Design as a Profession and a Value Proposition has changed since. Nowadays, understanding of design as a meta-discipline is omnipresent and visual design is happening everywhere and with more frequency than ever. That has good effects too, but more than that, it has turned Design into a demand that needs to be present in an industrial pipeline.
Thus, design is now being approached with industrial tools and industrial mindsets - and industrial demands. Never have I ever felt more disconnected from the energy that drove me there in the first place.
To me, Design was always a process formed around the desire to create something specific to the unique context of a given problem. And I don't think this has changed, but I think the problems have changed.
New Designers in Bootcamps rarely learn basal skills that are required by the craft. Instead they learn industry tools that will make them hireable. "Design Systems" are not being used to facilitate design, they are being used in order to not having to dedicate time and money.
I heard in a podcast a while ago, that "you shouldn't make your own design system anymore, always start with an existing system". Another Design Influencer on twitter postulated that there should be a global design system and that designs should just use themes.
This couldn't be more incongruent with the spirit that I channel in my work. I wanna sit down with a project and think about what could be done for that project. I don't wanna take an existing design decision and adjust some values. I am not saying, that configuring design tokens is not also an act of design, but I am saying that it is not enough for me. It bores me to tears.
Obviously my years of experience and my inclination for good design follows me wherever I go. But for the time being, I will not look for jobs and opportunities in design any longer. That dream has died long before the pandemic, and a part held on until now. But now I am tired of waiting and I am moving on.