Suppose I’m to hire a Visual/UX or other designers in 2023. In that case, I’ll be looking meticulously for a skill most people don’t even associate with the majority of design related careers — writing. I should clarify that by “writing,” I mean the entire skill subset of verbal and written communication, which naturally takes shape after acquiring the primary skill. But let’s stick with “writing” for the sake of simplicity.
It’s a shame that Chat GPT is already better in writing than 95% of the people that take pride in their skills.
After almost 20 years in the game, it’s fair to say I’ve seen it all. Or, as Metallica puts it eloquently in their famous punk song cover — “I’ve been here, I’ve been there, I’ve been every-f*cking-where.” I’ve read and written tens of thousands of emails. I’ve attended months of video calls. I’ve given and heard tons of presentations. And, unfortunately, I own a collection of hundreds of rejected ideas. My effectiveness could have been better if I had known the importance of writing in my early career days.
I wish someone had enlightened me to this simple truth 20 years ago.
Acquiring writing skills is especially hard for non-native English speakers like me cause I got two languages to cover. And that’s not even my sole or main goal in life. Nevertheless, it’s motivating to hear a foreigner speak better English than most natives. Remembering this helps me a lot when I’m low on self-confidence. Obviously it is possible!
What does good writing mean anyway? Well-structured, logical, practical, short, beautiful, and natural. Your thoughts are convincing, easy to read, understandable, and evoke strong emotion. It makes people highlight them in Medium. Or print them on t-shirts.
I’ve seen the opposite case, too — designers with impeccable writing skills but lacking the primary set. Creative thinking, Design History, Aesthetics, Critical Thinking, Lifelong learning, Entrepreneurship, and Experimentation — this foundation, combined with writing, will set you apart from your colleagues. I’ve heard people saying that a design career is a piece of cake, and I don’t blame them, it’s just how it looks from aside. Sorry to disappoint you, guys; in reality it’s nothing like an easily digestible Netflix show.
“U fo’ real bruv? I just wanna push them pixels, you know.” Well, yes, keep pushing, but let me explain why good writing will make you an even better, more effective, and happier pusher.
Let’s delve into the cases where writing skills will be immensely helpful.
- We are merchants. We sell our work either to clients or to our teams. And our designs aren’t good at selling themselves. In fact, the simpler the design proposal, the more argumentation it usually needs, so the people on the other side don’t think you’re trying to sell them compressed air. Writing is that critical bridge between your design work and clients.
- Have you ever dealt with case studies for your portfolio in pursuit of getting the attention of your next employer? Basically, case studies are like short stories, well-told, containing just the essence of a sometimes long and tiresome experience.
- Remote work. We’re privileged to be able to work remotely. It’s the realm where writing skills will directly impact your performance and happiness. After doing it for more than 6 years now, I consider myself a veteran.
- Have you ever wondered why these Zoom calls are so long, exhausting, and ineffective? Why are these email threads sometimes longer than books? The ability to synthesize your thoughts and present them effectively and concisely will make you love Zoom and email again.
- If there’s one genuinely universal skill that’s always useful, it is writing. You’ll be negotiating for all kinds of weird stuff throughout your life, so you’ll need it around the clock. To lower the rent, to get a better price for your old car, to go for higher salary, I can overdose with examples.
- Is your salary getting tighter? Consider an additional income stream that could support you and your family. Start a blog, write articles and ebooks, and share your knowledge with the rest of the world.
- One of the essential missions of each generation is to enrich and pass on valuable information to their heirs. That knowledge transfer happens mainly through writing. Be one of these people.
- We all grow in our careers. You’ll lead an entire team or even your own company one day. And good leadership is all about the quality and effectiveness of communication.
- Capture your life in stories: the good and the bad. One day your kids will thank you for that.
Now let’s look at some practical ways for improvement. Below is my personal strategy, that’s been absolutely efficient so far. Of course, you could still upgrade or personalize it for a better fit.
- Do monologues as often as possible on topics that аppeal to you. I do so many of them that I’d be considered mad if anyone had been listening to me all these hours. Composing thoughts verbally trains your brain to recall information quickly and to structure entire concepts mentally. The exercise differs from writing because time and fluidity are not factors there.
- Start a diary. Write the stories of your life, big or small. Write about all those things you admire. It’s not a secret that we humans aren’t particularly memorable, so it’s a way to ensure you remember everything of importance. One day this diary could quickly turn into your memoirs. You’ll be the treasurer of your family, full of funny and tearful stories.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”Kurt Vonnegut
- Permanently switch to the language you want to become fluent in your daily communication. Of course, this one applies to those of us who study a foreign language. Pretend to be a foreigner in your own city. Some hilarious and absurd stories could be born this way.
- Refrain from passing by unfamiliar words even if you get the meaning of the entire sentence based on the context. I do this even in my mother tongue cause it helps me understand all the nuances. After checking its meaning, write it down several times, even construct some sentences in your head with it. I’ve kept it a secret until now, but actually, Google Translate is one of my best friends.
- Find a native speaker in your town and bother him as often as possible. It’s the easiest way to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. And say “hello” to the peculiar world of idiomatic expressions.
- Install Grammarly.com. It’s a priceless instrument for language or writing learners. This incredible multiplatform software uses AI to seek and destroy typos and suggests stylistic improvements based on your goals and target audience. Of course, Grammarly is not the only option, but I’ll leave the research fun to you.
- Take courses on writing. There are several worthy ones on Domestika.org, but you’ll find plenty of other choices. (I wish it were a paid partnership, but it’s not) You’d want to pick those by established professionals with proven records of success — writers, journalists, and others alike.
- Read daily. Add it to your routine. Pick pieces that are slightly beyond your comfort zone, so you feel enriched after each article or book. Nowadays, there are so many ways to consume information that it’s possible in almost any context. Podcasts and audiobooks are my favorites when I’m on the move.
A few articles a day keep the airhead away.
- Watch movies without subtitles. This one will teach your brain to recognize sounds and interpret these into meaning. Replay the film in a month; you’ll understand an even bigger portion of the dialogue.
- Push your boundaries, and do more things that scare you off. Speak to a large audience, present to important people, or post a thorough article on a complex subject. You will be absolutely amazed at the immediate effect on your mental abilities.
“The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”Albert Einstein
- Read classic books. It will expand your vocabulary and help you understand the history and evolution of human thoughts and ideas. After all, the primary goal of reading is to develop our intellectual capacities and expand our perspectives. Our writing is simply an indicator of the current progress.
- Ask ChatGPT about writing. I told you, it’s getting better than most humans. I see a powerful and universal teacher in it already.
It should be clear by now that writing alone will not make you the most fabulous designer in the Universe. Keep a good balance within your skillset, expand it regularly, аnd you already have the prerequisite for a promising and influential career. Meanwhile, don’t underestimate the importance of being an excellent example for those who walk behind you.
Mastery in writing will not come in a day, and it may never come for some of us that are always looking for the next level. So I encourage you to set gradual goals, and I’ll wrap up by sharing with you my own goal, hoping that it’ll inspire you. The moment I’m able to make readers either burst into tears or choke with laughter, I’ll quietly say to myself, I’ve arrived.
Book recommendations (to be continued)
Microstyle: The Art Of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson
“Makes accessible a number of ideas that most of us need to learn if we are going to thrive as writers in the 21st century. With advice for writing compelling blogs, pitches, ads, slogans, and social-media postings, Johnson s sophisticated, richly referenced, and example-filled microstyle guide is distinctive, instructive, enjoyable, and inspiring.“
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