Prove yourself wrong

Getting into the right mindset when looking for feedback will save your feelings and make for better designs.

Why did this topic come up?

I've been guilty of being caught up in my ego and it can be a challenge to manage as a designer. I especially remember when I was a junior designer that I felt I had to prove myself right as if my whole identity depended on it. All that work I put in – the details, the sweat, the tears. And then for people to critique it and say it's no good? It felt horrible but that was because I was in the wrong mindset. I cared more for my ego than I did for the people using my designs. It was about me and not about them. Over time, I've come to realise that is not the way to be.

Don't be caught with your pants down

When putting forward an idea as a designer you should aim to prove yourself wrong, fast. It's very easy to get caught up in your solution and your head. It's your idea and it's important to you but you should avoid that big reveal. All that time spent in your head, only to be shown your solution doesn't work or is simply not good enough. Like an abstracted version of being caught with your pants down.

With any idea you put forward as a designer you should aim to prove yourself wrong, fast.

Every day, designers are put in a position to come up with creative solutions and serious things are going to be built based on that. Meetings are going to happen, engineers are going to code, time and resources will both be spent, with the hope that it will directly or indirectly generate money when it's released. It can feel like a lot is riding on that and, sometimes, there is. Couple all of that with your ego, too, and it can quickly feel that you should be producing this beautiful, mesmerising design that solves not just all the problems of the business – but the world! Your team and your customers will all gasp with delight. But of course, that's completely unrealistic and you're most likely living in a fantasy land.

But maybe you're a genius and you knock it out the gate with your first version. It does happen but there is a higher chance that there will be things you simply didn't know, didn't consider or simply didn't think about. All those things you were just so sure were right were actually very, very wrong indeed.

Doctor sitting at his office desk accessing PDQ on his computer in the 1980s. The Physicians Data Query was designed by the National Cancer Institute to help physicians obtain information about the most up-to-date protocols, physicians, and clinics treating cancer patients.
1987
This is a photo of you proving yourself wrong — Credit 

So when designing something, you should think more like a scientist. A scientist puts forward a hypothesis and then they go through a series of experiments adjustments and conversations to test it. There are no real truths when it comes to science, only ideas and theories that are less wrong than others. If an idea is proven to be wrong then they can move past it fast and, in turn, move one step closer to "right". Of course, in design, there is no such thing as being right. But there are certain steps towards being better. And when it's better, the people using your product or service will thank you for it.

Do yourself a favour

By going in with the mindset to prove yourself wrong first, you are opening yourself up to the right kind of feedback that would get you one step closer to better. If you lock yourself up with the mindset of only proving yourself right, you will grab on to any piece of feedback that aligns only with your predetermined assumptions. You may as well put your fingers in your ears.

By going in with the mindset to prove yourself wrong first, you are opening yourself up to the right kind of feedback that would get you one step closer to better.

How to apply this in your work?

Develop your designs quickly using sketches, wireframes or prototypes and share early and often. Share with your team and, even better, with the people you are designing for. Resist the temptation to dive straight in with a high fidelity design, that takes hours to make. Avoid giving your ego the time to think it's right and that this design is "the one". Listen carefully, accept critique, and be willing to be proven wrong by default. This will result in faster iterations towards a better design. Don't short change yourself, and the people you design for, by not allowing the right kind of feedback to come in from the start.

What do you think?

I'm curious if this resonates at all or you think it's total nonsense. Reach out to me on Twitter or over email. It would be great to hear what you think. If you have liked what you read, please consider subscribing for more content.