How Becoming a Parent Made Me a Better Designer
Design / Parenting / Travelling / Arts & Crafts
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Life with a new baby (especially the first one) can be very challenging. Years of babysitting can’t really prepare you for that. The experience of living with and caring for a newborn can help develop and hone a whole range of important and life enhancing skills. Here are a few essential points, that made a big difference in the ways I both parent and design. While my examples come from the UX design perspective, I believe they can be applied to any design field.
After the baby is born, it takes some time to get to know this new (little) person in your life. Slowly, I figured out there’s a different type of cry for hungry, tired, dirty diaper or “I don’t want that toy“. When I started to pay attention, being patient, and truly empathetic, I soon learned the difference. That helped significantly reduce stress for both the baby and I, and made parenting a much more enjoyable experience.
In the context of design, you can learn to listen to your customers in the same way. Listening empathetically can help make better design decisions, answer customer needs better and reduce frustration. It can also improve the design process itself .
Being creative with your solutions is an inseparable part of parenting.
What should you do when…
– She tore her diaper and you realize you’re out of fresh ones?….. Fix it with your hair elastic!
– You’re trying to get dinner out to your family, but he’s bored with all his toys and you don’t want to turn the TV on?……Some kitchen pans and spatulas will do the trick!
– She decides your computer charger is the coolest toy out there, but you can’t give it to her simply because it’s dangerous?……The computer mouse will do just fine! .…It also may be a good opportunity for some music education…
Note to future parents: When the time comes, you’ll do pretty much anything to avoid a tantrum. Unfortunately, almost every toddler’s second name is Tantrum and even the nicest, most well behaved 2 year old will have an occasional one. That’s where your creative thinking will come in handy!
When the word “design” is used, creativity is often implied. For designers, unleashing the creativity can sometimes be a challenging process. There are many different approaches and techniques to nurture and grow creativity — some being: looking at things from different perspective or zooming in and out of the task in order to find new and fresh solutions. I believe, that the key is to exercise that “creative muscle” as often as possible. Being a parent gives you plenty of opportunity for that consistent creativity-boosting exercise, even when the situation is not design related.
It is finally parents night out! Unfortunately, earlier that morning, you sense a fever developing in your baby, and now she requires your constant attention and love. You have to skip that concert you’ve been patiently waiting for for the last few weeks. Unexpected things happen and plans change frequently when you have little kids. The best way to deal with it is to learn to adjust and be flexible.
Similarly in any design project. Being flexible during the process and being able to easily adapt to sudden changes in the workforce, project scope or budget is playing an important role in finishing the project successfully.
Another aspect is the flexibility of the design itself, which can help the designer achieve multiple project goals or to accommodate changing
Balancing Multitasking and Focus
Multitasking goes hand in hand with parenting. When taking care of a baby (or 2, or 3) multitasking is almost constant. It can be juggling house chores and entertaining your little miracle of life, feeding your baby while reading a book with your toddler, or my personal favorite — trying to brush my teeth while consoling my crying baby. While doing many things at once, each needs to be done with focus.
Multitasking, while maintaining immense focus, is an inseparable part of being a designer. It is a pretty rare occasion when you can indulge yourself to spend a whole day on perfecting those error states (UX designers, can you relate?). Throughout the day the juggle is constant — between different projects, between different tasks on the same project, between meetings and the actual design work.
Remembering to Take a Break
As I have eventually discovered, the secret ingredient for sane parenting is to take an occasional break from it. As much as I love my kids, over time it can get emotionally and physically draining to be there 24/7 on 100% capacity.
I learned, that it is important to take a break not only for myself, but also for the sake of relationships with my kids, my partner and everyone else
In design, sometimes we keep working on something, iteration after iteration, but it’s just not where it needs to be, no matter how hard we try. At that point, it’s easy to get caught up in it and lose inspiration. Whether it’s a Tulum vacation, a stroll outside or simply shifting attention to another task, take a break. Besides some well deserved rest, you’ll gain a fresh perspective, new ideas and hopefully some inspiration.
I’d like to end by saying, that parenting experience contributed immensely to my efficiency and general sense of focus. While the above points were part of my professional life before becoming a mother, I feel, that now, I truly connect to the complete meaning of those. It continues to make an impact on my professional life and profoundly improves the way I work and design. I’d love to hear your experiences (please comment below) on ways in which becoming a parent contributed to your professional life.