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Shoulder Pads

The Design Team – Medium | Pablo Stanley

Fear and design.

Fear plays a significant role in the life of a designer. We’re constantly showing our work, and in doing so, we feel like we’re exposing ourselves. We draw our boxes with a touch of self-doubt, and we paint our colors with the ruler of skepticism. Some of us often distrust our work and ask ourselves, “Am I a real designer? Or am I just pretending? Real designers know what they’re doing. I don’t know what I’m doing — I must not be a real one.” And it’s all driven by this illusion that our work has to be extraordinary ✨. The idea that our profession requires a magical element; a touch that others might have, and we lack.

We don’t consider this irrational thinking in other things that we do. Imagine if we were riding a bike down the street and suddenly questioned ourselves “Am I a real bike rider? Or am I just pretending to be one? Will people find out that I’m just faking it?” No! You’re riding the bike. You ARE a bike rider 🚴🏽‍. You might not be the best one — you might not be the fastest. But who cares? Pedaling down the hill makes you a rider. Doing the work makes you a designer.

There’s no way to pretend you’re being a designer when you are designing. Try it, go ahead and pretend you’re a musician while playing the guitar in front of an audience. Go pretend you’re a writer while writing a story. When you open your design tool and draw a box, add a text layer, pick a color — when you make a decision — congratulations: YOU ARE A DESIGNER 👏🏽.

Get naked

Now, how do you become a good designer? Well…by not giving up and by not being too cocky. By not pretending that you know everything and being open to learning new things. By listening — actually listening. You start doing good work after doing lots of crappy work. You become good by opening up and letting others burn down what you made — no matter how much it hurts — and being ready to create something new out of the ashes. You become great by not acting out of fear.

So join me, my designer friend, in this ride called uncertainty 🎢. A drive in which we give our fears and self-doubt a seat in the car, next to us. All squished together. We don’t ignore our concerns, we acknowledge them. We are compassionate with that part of ourselves. We become ok with uncertainty, with not being sure of everything because that gives us the opportunity to learn. We admit that our work is only a solution in a million and that gives us the chance to grow and try new ideas. We stop faking it and start just slowly making it. We’re ok with being uncomfortable, with bringing down the armor and throwing away the shoulder pads.

Note: I’m actually all about bringing back shoulder pads 💪🏽.

The Design Team

This is the beginning of Season Two of this comic series. You should check out the previous episodes. I’ll try to have a new comic every other Taco Tuesday.

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I’m Pablo Stanley. Among many things I work at a startup called Carbon Health where we’re reimagining healthcare. I also have a YouTube channel where I share design tutorials.

Thanks to Courtney M. Sawyer, Juliana Vislova, Carolina C. Castellanos, and Luisa Mancera for their inspiration and help spotting all my grammar horrors. ❤️


Shoulder Pads was originally published in The Design Team on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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