Differences between a good designer and a great designer

April 19, 2023

A question that always puzzles designers - What is the difference between a good designer and a great designer? An even more fundamental question - what qualities make a designer great and rise in the career?  

The differences are subtle between them, but the impact is huge. Let me dive deep into the key differences between the senior and junior designers and clear the air. 

🕵 Level of Detail 

A good designer has a decent level of detail. The work is good enough. 

But a great designer is obsessed with the finer details. What are the finer details:

  • The way they name their layers of Figma. 
  • Impeccable file organization - the folders are perfect. The naming convention is so good that you can readily pick it up.  
  • The level of improvement from one iteration to another is massive. 

🗂 Ownership

A good designer owns the scope of just the work assigned to them. And they do that well. A great designer, on the other hand, takes a larger scope of the project:

  • They don’t just focus on the task at hand. They go above and beyond the project scope.
  • Are there any edge cases the other stakeholders missed? A great designer hunts for such issues proactively. 
  • They actively share the project's wins with the team and take the blame on their shoulders. They don’t blame the team, client or manager for their failures. 

🗣 Independence and Asking for Help

Designer A: I am stuck. Can you help?

Designer B: I am stuck. I have tried A, but users did not find it appealing. For this edge case, I think we should go with design option B over design C because of reason (i). What do you think?

Do you see the difference? 

Here is what great designer(s) do when they ask for help:

  • Lay the various options on the table with sound reasoning as to why they will or won’t go for a particular design. Help here means having an extra pair of eyes. 
  • Have multiple solutions and directions handy of where the project can go. They seek feedback on what path to take. 
  • They don’t wait for directions; they pick their direction based on the information they have at their disposal.

🤝 Stakeholder management

A good designer works well with stakeholders and incorporates their feedback actively. They do exactly what the stakeholder wants.

A great designer on the other hand:

  • Proactively builds relationships to understand stakeholder perspectives and needs and empathizes with them.
  • Understand that what the stakeholder told is just one direction and explore multiple directions and go beyond. 
  • Guides stakeholders towards a shared vision of the product's UX direction
  • Able to adapt deftly towards the requirements of harsh/difficult clients and able to take them through the process. 

 The key difference is to be proactive instead of reactive to the stakeholders’ changing needs and quickly align your design output. 

Courtesy: Digital Synopsis

🪄 Magic in Design

A good designer’s output feels nice, but a great designer’s output feels magical. 

  • Instead of lorum epsum, they craft their own (placeholder) copy based on their experience. So during hand-off, the amalgamation of copy and design takes it towards the magical territory. 
  • A great designer handles ambiguity much better - they understand the right questions to ask and work to the best of their ability with the information they have. 
  • Able to contribute much better and help define the design strategy for the team.

Good vs Great Designers: Other points

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Good Designer: Solves problems as they arise and addresses user needs in their design.

Great Designer: Anticipates problems and proactively finds creative solutions, while ensuring the long-term success of the product.

Adaptability and Continuous Learning

Good Designer: Adapts to new tools, technologies, and methodologies.
Great Designer: Constantly expands their knowledge, incorporates new trends and best practices.

Mentoring and Team Growth

Good Designer: Contributes to team projects and works collaboratively.

Great Designer: Actively mentors and supports junior team members, fosters a culture of learning and growth, and positively influences the team dynamics.

Courtesy: Digital Synopsis

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