I was looking at design work I did over 15 years ago. Although I can see that the browser technology has improved and therefore my canvas of design has improved, I noticed that the quality of the work was not discernible from my current work. The thinking that went into the design is practically the same.
In other words, I don’t think I have become a better designer despite practicing it for almost 20 years. I think I started being good and then maintained my skills until now. No one taught me how to design. I didn’t read any books on design until much later in my career.
Over the years, I have learned that there were words for the things I knew to be true. Words like affordance, color theory, cognitive dissonance, mental models, combobox and a myriad of other terms that describe things I used before I knew what to call them.
This revelation has filled me with depression. What if you can’t learn creativity? What if you can’t get better at designing? It means I will never be better than I am. It means junior designers are either good or will never be. As someone who delights in teaching, this is a horrifying thought. I want to mentor designers. I want to pass on wisdom to them.
However, if it is truly nature (you are born with it), then what is the point? I hate this feeling. I want to believe people can improve. I’m looking for evidence that young designers can start off poorly and become great. So far, I don’t see it.