Limits are the ingredients of professionalism 🍹
Being yourself, including when you're at work. A designer does some soul-searching.
You wake up in the morning – you look around furtively, without drawing too much attention – and the first thing you do is open your LinkedIn profile in search of something to stimulate your thumb, almost an apotropaic ritual of the modern man. And you immediately get lost in a sea of posts such as the following:
“Start measuring the KPIs of your success”
“The top 10 habits to improve your routine”
“How I changed my life with these 5 simple rules”.
But life, as we very well know, is not like that. So much for waking up at 5 am to do meditation and exercise. So much for work-life balance philosophies. You spend the early hours of the morning, which often follow sleepless nights, (trying to) get your children ready. Where are the clothes? Quick, have breakfast! Come on, it’s late… and then off to school. When you get in front of the computer to get to work, you are already tired, ready to go back to sleep.
Where is the time and space for self-improvement?
I asked myself this for a long time, until I changed the question: do I really need to change? I gave up. But it was not a desperate surrender. No, I simply realised that my whole personality, including my limitations, is the basis on which I have built my professionalism. No more illusions of perfection, the mantra of perfectionism just doesn’t do it for me.
Maybe my therapist should read this article and not you, but it’s worth it. If you still haven’t closed the browser tab to do something better, I think something positive can come out of all this.
You know, I am an extremely anxious and, at the same time, lazy person. Does the combination sound strange? In any case, that’s how I am. And I will also tell you that I am highly chaotic, while also displaying maniacal tendencies towards precision. In short, I feel a bit like a kind of modern-day Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
I try to show you what I have discovered, which is that these aspects of my personality were actually instrumental in shaping the professional, the designer I am today. In fact, they are the essential ingredients.
Follow the step-by-step recipe for a bitter-tasting cocktail with a fruity note on the finish.
🥃 Two-thirds anxiety
Anxiety is a constant presence in many people’s lives, including my own. It is the chimera of our time. Of course, it’s not pretty, it’s not compliant, and it doesn’t give you a break for a second. But I learned to turn it into a valuable ally, just like the geeky schoolmate you can’t stand, but who eventually helps you pass the most difficult school test. Being a designer often involves tight deadlines and high expectations. The risk of being overwhelmed is just around the corner. Beginning to recognise that it is not all up to you, and that things can be tackled one at a time with the right amount of detachment and a sense of irony, is the first step towards not succumbing. In the end, you realise that this very unpleasant life companion is the engine that forces you every day to give more, to find new solutions to the problems you face.
🍸 A small dose of laziness
Laziness has always been one of my most conspicuous characteristics, ever since childhood. This basic ingredient of my personality drives me every day to look for simple, straightforward solutions without too many frills. I have adopted tools and methodologies that allow me to automate certain repetitive tasks, greatly improving my efficiency and the quality of my work. In addition, my inclination to dodge effort (a sport I might win a gold medal in one day) has led me to focus on creating minimalist, highly functional designs that try not to weigh down the user experience. Laziness led me to focus on the result, the final output, with the right amount of elasticity.
Now, take your anxiety and laziness and shake vigorously to obtain a homogeneous mixture. Here, you will immediately realise that these two ingredients together have a great taste, a little bitter, but certainly well balanced. So it is for me: one pushes me not to waste time on too many dead ends and to optimise my work, the other pushes me to keep going, to keep the pace.
🧂 A sprinkling of chaos
A good sprinkling of chaos will give the cocktail that unprecedented, innovative flavour. Chaos, taken in the right doses, is an ingredient that can bring originality and freshness to everyday work. Recognising the impossibility of resolving complexity is a source of great relief and can give you the right energy to try to tame it, to make sense of it, to put it in some order. All things are related and intermingle. How beautiful it is not to fear chaos, but to look it in the eye and be able to say: “Your mystery is my strength!”. When designing an interface, be it that of a website or a complex software application, this ingredient can help you shuffle the cards every now and then, to find that unexpected, new element that can add flavour to everything else.
🍋 Garnish with mania
Finally, before serving, add a zest of mania. This is nothing more than an attempt to restore order where there is no order. But when you stand back and look at it from the right angle, you see everything in its place, precise, well-presented. Each pixel has its own purpose, each label has its own meaning. And the end result is solid, well-structured, defined throughout. In the end, it is the details that make the difference.
🤪 The moment of tasting
Here, it is time to taste our cocktail. You didn’t expect it, it is good and balanced. It’s definitely not perfect, but, we know, we made it with those four ingredients we had on hand.
But it is U-N-I-Q-U-E.
What I am profoundly convinced of is that the only way to be quality designers and – I would say – sincere, serious, valuable professionals, is to start by taking those few available ingredients to create the right mix of flavours. One soon realises that even the least noble ingredients can make a difference.
🥂 Drink in company
I like to share this cocktail with others, and taste theirs. Yes, because what I use are my own ingredients, mixed according to my personal recipe. Each person, however, has their own ingredients. Everyone has their own recipe.
The beauty of working with other people is precisely this: a great variety of flavours, the pleasure of getting to know each other, and the desire to see everyone give their best.
Now I am curious to know, what is your cocktail?