Are you solving a problem or just designing a page?

I enjoy working with all sorts of people – I suppose that’s half the reason I like UX so much. I get to work with VCs and managers and client-side staff and developers and other designers and… well everyone! But there are a few designers that I love to work with. Ryan is one of those people.

Ryan and I have been friends and colleagues for years, but we’ve only worked together once. This last weekend we both volunteered for the Rocky Mountain Scrimmage, an event where 15 startups are chosen for a day-long rapid-prototyping event. The organizers put out an open call for people who have skills that may be of use in this situation, and around 84 people showed up to help these startups. Everyone is to be much congratulated – amazing insights were discovered, plans created and everyone did a smashing job. But something happened in the midst of our day that made me admire Ryan even more than I did before – and that was his engagement style.

Ryan asked questions of the founder of our startup – and really listened. Another designer had lots of advice for the founder and told him what he should do, how things should look – and Ryan constantly went back to asking questions. The other designer went off to design ‘the cool profile page’ – and Ryan quietly listen to what activities users wanted to do, what information the startup needed, what it offered the users. And then, when the founder was done, he asked for Ryan’s input. And Ryan gave him good advice, we drew out an elegant workflow, and then we tested it with paper prototypes.

I was really inspired by this. It’s the kind of designer I want to be – I want to be someone who listens first. The kind who will be invited to contribute. There’s a saying that  “A piggy bank with two nickels makes more noise than a full bank” and though I don’t know if that’s always true, I know that Ryan was solving problems for that startup company, not just designing a page on a website.

Maybe my industry – admittedly, one filled with genuinely intelligent people – has more people like this loud designer than other industries do. Maybe you don’t see this behavior and if not – lucky you! But I’ve decided that for me, UX design is a MMOG, not Solitaire. I’m going to treat it as such.


Related Reading: “Never Act Like The Smartest Guy In The Room” (Forbes)
*Rocky Mountain Scrimmage was sponsored by ReWorkTedxMileHigh and Social Venture Partners of Denver