FAQ | Soft Skills: The Pathway to Senior Designers

May 22, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

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Soft skills are super, super important. They are going to be that differentiator of what helps you grow and helps you fit into this management style and learn how to be in a management style. It's like empathy, it's understanding.

Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Pixelated Perfect. Today we have an FAQ-style episode. So I'm excited to get into this one. We will be talking about soft skills and design. So the goal of this f FAQ is to give you designers some ideas of what soft skills are and how you can develop them and improve your design careers. So first, let's break it down into what are hard skills and what are soft skills. So hard skills are those design programs. So it's knowing the ins and outs of Figma. It's knowing design systems. It's knowing the difference between how you should size buttons. It's like the concrete type of design skill set that every designer needs to have. So it is more of like the UX and UI side. So design thinking, how are you communicating some of that?

Those are all the hard skills. It's like what you define as being a designer. On the other hand, we have soft skills. So soft skills are more about communication and building relationships with people and leading clients or customers. It's more about being able to facilitate conversations, to know what to say, to know how to say it, to know how to defend your designs or how to explain why you designed what you did in the best way possible. How do they work together? I think that this is a big difference between a junior designer and a senior designer. Junior designers are learning the hard skills. They're perfecting the hard skills, right? I think what helps take a junior designer's career, career to the next level is with some of those soft skills. So, learning how to have those difficult conversations with clients or internal teams.

It's knowing how to run and facilitate a design workshop. It's really about having the extra skillset, that extra layer of business sense, right? Knowing how to have these conversations with people. That's really what takes a junior to a senior. Is one of these skills more important than the other? I think it definitely depends on where you see your career going. So if you wanna be an expert in design, so you wanna be an expert in design systems, things like that, hard skills are key, right? If you don't have those hard skills, then you're, you're not going to do well. And becoming an expert in the type of design that you're looking for. If you're looking to gain management skillset, kind of move your way up in that sense. So the trajectory of leading teams, of becoming ahead of design, of dealing more with the business aspect, soft skills are super, super important.

They are going to be that differentiator of what helps you grow and helps you fit into this management style and learn how to be in a management style. It's like empathy, it's understanding. So that it, it really depends on where you see yourself. Let's kind of break down some of these soft skills that I talked about earlier, right? So communication, I think that's probably the biggest one. It's how can you actually communicate with your internal team, with your external team. It's being able to talk about design in a way that is simple and that everyone can understand. It's making sure that all of your designers are backed up by reason and not just backed up by reason, but you're communicating clearly that reason, right? The next soft skill is collaboration. So being able to work within a team and a group setting. So this is if maybe if you have a team of designers and you're all working together, it's how can you collaborate?

Well, it's not like you as the expert are gonna come in and kind of say, this is my role, this is what I wanna do. It's like working in a team setting is really, really important to the, to, to having a soft skill. It's knowing empathy, it's knowing when to when to push a team and when to let the team kind of lead, right? It's, it's some of these like very nuanced details of collaboration that are really important. And I can definitely, maybe in another podcast I can go into more detail about collaboration cause I have lots of feelings there. It's like being able to get feedback and implement it and be able to give feedback and take the ego out and know that you're really in a collaborative setting, building something together that is going to solve a, a user need. Let's talk about time management.

I think this is a good soft skill. I think it's like being able to work effectively on your own. I think it's being able to have that management over yourself and know your boundaries. So it is like, okay, how long do you expect something to take? It's not someone telling you how long it's gonna take. It's you making an executive decision based on your knowledge of your work. So I think kind of leveling up your design skillset is also having some of this management side of things like time, time management and I think one of the biggest soft skills is listening. I love this one. I think this one is great. I think it's, it's n at the end of the day, we're solving user problems, right? So we need to be able to listen, we need to be able to gather that feedback.

We need to go in and remove all of our biases, all of our assumptions, and just be very open to taking in all of the information before jumping to solutions. I think a natural state of us as humans is like, okay, what's the problem? Let's solve it immediately. And that's not what we wanna do. Wanna take a step back. We wanna truly understand the problem, we wanna truly understand the users. And that's really gonna elevate you in terms of bringing your career to that next level of a senior designers. Being able to listen and being, knowing when to listen, I is really powerful. Do I have any tips on how to implement these? That is a really great question. I think that the suggestion I have is to listen <laugh> and to maybe have like a mentor or a manager or someone to have these conversations like, oh, I wanna level up my soft skills, what can I do?

So I think having someone that's really there to help support the soft skills gonna be really important to you. Because they can be there and they can listen to conversations you have or maybe it's another teammate like, Hey, I wanna love up my soft skills. How am I doing in this or that? And like getting real feedback from people of like, are you a good listener? Have you been, what can you do better at communicating and learning and trying new things and growing. I think it's gonna be out of our comfort zone because I think soft skills are things that we kind of work towards our whole lives and building soft skills. So sometimes when you have to change a soft skill, it's really, really difficult and really hard <laugh>. So I think going easy on yourself too and just like knowing that it's a process is a really big tip.

I'm trying to think of other things that I've worked with designers on as far as soft skills. I think it's kind of reaching out and taking that ownership and saying, Hey, I wanna facilitate this conversation. And really pushing yourself to, to actually have a goal of how to use some of these soft skills. And I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. So maybe practicing it more regularly and really voicing when you want to try to be, try to do more soft skills. Does it really have an impact on my future opportunities as a professional designer? This is kind of the last question and I think that it goes back to what type of designer you wanna be. I think if you wanna be an expert designer and you wanna work solo, I don't think it's as important.

But if you wanna work in a team and you wanna grow into maybe management or leadership role, then it is key and it is the biggest differentiator between you and the next designer. So it is extremely, extremely important and I think it goes along with a lot of what companies are looking for. They want you to have those soft skills to be able to communicate, to be able to have that empathy. So if that is something that you are looking for, then I think you really need to push yourself to learn these skills. I hope this was helpful and definitely let me know of any additional topics or questions, burning questions you guys have for me or anyone at the design project. Thanks everyone.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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