What outsiders look for in a good designer

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.

This list is supposed to be cynical and practical. It lists the factors that other people might rely on to figure out if you’re a good designer. You might feel they’re not fair.

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 makes impressive design

The designer makes design that is beautiful, has lots of impressive details, and represents the skills of a good craftsperson. This is about visual design but also interactivity details that impress people. Fluid animation, fun microinteractions, etc.

A good designer is creative

The designer comes up with ideas that others don’t.

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 has social proof

The designer has, for example, lots of followers on Twitter; gushing testimonials on their portfolio; a strong referral from another good designer; respected design awards; or has worked with impressive companies like Apple, Stripe, and Nike.

A good designer works well with others

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.

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.