Toxic mindsets for a UX designer

Cartoon of a head with a bomb as a brain
Cartoon of a head with a bomb as a brain
Image credit: The enterpriser’s project

In order to be a good UX designer, I believe you have to be a decent person. Maybe I’m just naive, but when your job is understanding how people think, feel, and behave, I assume that you’re pretty empathetic. That you genuinely care about people because you want to build them something that makes their lives better. I can’t think of many things that are kinder than someone genuinely listening, understanding, and helping as much as they can.

But even the kindest, most empathetic people have the capacity to exhibit toxic traits. We are only human, after all. And there appear to be some mindsets and behaviors that are especially toxic for UX designers as we seek to collaborate, learn, build, and connect with our users and colleagues.

1. Independence = good. Isolation ≠ good.

Many designers insist that they work best when flying solo, which I think is great! Having the confidence and skill to work without constant support is incredibly valuable. But when you become unwilling to work with a group while insisting on your independence, this trait can become pretty toxic.

Collaboration and working with and across teams is critical for a designer to be effective at their job. Aside from that, working solo all the time closes you into your own little bubble, making you miss out on all the positive contributions you can get from sharing your work.

When working on projects for my UX/UI Design program, I would get lost in my own little design world and forget (or refuse) to share my work with other designers, and this is my biggest regret. Getting new eyes and a fresh perspective can massively improve your design, even if you’ve designed your little heart out and think what you’ve done is the best.

Which leads into…

2. Getting stuck on your idea as the “best” idea

Cartoon featuring a man at baggage checking with multiple bags labeled “Ego”
Cartoon featuring a man at baggage checking with multiple bags labeled “Ego”
Image credit: Charles Irion

I don’t know a better way to say this, but your idea is never the single best idea. This is not because you didn’t come up with something great — it is because “best” is inherently subjective. If you’ve done your research, perhaps you can back something up as being reviewed well with users or having accomplished a goal more effectively than another solution. But thinking of anything you create as the absolute best and being unwilling to acknowledge other designs as more effective or “better” only means you need to check your ego.

3. Aiming for finality or absolute completion.

Going through a design bootcamp program allows you to focus on completing a project by your due date with all the requirement boxes checked. It is easy to look at something you’ve created and be happy about being “done”.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, you are never done.

Image of a man pushing a boulder up a hill
Image of a man pushing a boulder up a hill

I know, this makes it sound like doing this work is a little dissatisfying. Maybe I’m projecting, but who doesn’t like to check work off their to-do list and say they’re finished?

Yes, you will have deadlines. And yes, you will have an end-product. But the closest you’ll ever be to “done” is “done for now”. Each end-product is simply an iteration, implying that you will continue to iterate for as long as the product lives. This means if you’re doing your job you may have some job security since the project doesn’t simply stop (yay!), but don’t let your ideas stop flowing just because you’ve reached your deadline. My favorite part of UX/UI Design is that there is always room to iterate and improve. As far as I’ve seen, absolute completion does not exist in this world — and as far as I’m concerned, that’s one of the best parts of it.

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