I’ve been wondering why the stereotypical designer generally has quite a big ego. So I want to share my thoughts with you.

First of all, what is ego?

Etymologically, it comes from the Latin word ego, which means I. It’s commonly known as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. The ego is the identity that our mind constructed of ourselves. It’s our reality.

Ego is not something bad itself. It helped us through history to differentiate ourselves from each other. It makes us develop our personalities and abilities. We need the ego to begin to think for ourselves and not as merely part of the tribe. It gave birth to innovative thinkers and allowed for the Albert Einsteins and Steve Jobs’s of the world to stand apart and share their brilliance.

However, nowadays ego has a bad reputation, and the problem lays in the excess of ego. When the ego exceeds the humbleness, it reaches the point where we become narcissistic and self-centered. We all know people with a very big ego. Think of that one person who has to “win” every debate or that other one who needs to stand out no matter what, and cannot put the ego aside. 

I think that ego itself is not bad, but the lack of humbleness.

Mirrored eye, by Vince Fleming
Vince Fleming – Unsplash

So, why are the designers usually believed to have a big ego?

Let’s start analyzing the job of a designer. The work of a designer feels a lot of times like part of them. The same happens to writers, film directors, musicians and other similar artists. It’s their creation and it’s easy (inevitable sometimes) to get attached emotionally to their work.

The thing is that in design everyone can have an opinion in spite of not having any design experience. Their work is more exposed to opinions than in any other job.  A client will rarely tell a developer (unless the clients know what they’re saying) “Why don’t you try to do the project in this certain architecture?”. Nor the architect is told “Try to place the windows in the ceiling and make the walls all in metal”. Clients frequently have something to add and try to improve it. This isn’t necessarily bad, but a lot of designers turn into a very defensive position, which results in a matter of ego more than an opportunity to improve.

I actually believe that there’s many other people in different fields of work that have an enormous ego too. It’s simply that designers’ ego can be more visible, because their work is frequently receiving more external criticism. 

Don’t let your ego overpass your humbleness.

The solution is not to just say “They know nothing about design”. Obviously! That’s our job! However, knowing how to justify and explain the decisions we took is what will make us better professionals. Once again, as uncle Ben would have said, “with big ego, there must also come big humbleness“. 

Besides, letting your ego aside is the first step to build a better trust relationship with your client. In fact, not too long ago, Javier wrote a very interesting post about how trust works (and self-orientation is one of the most important factors). Go and check it out if you want to know more. 

As good designers, we shouldn’t take criticism personally and be self-critical as well. Knowing to accept constructive criticism leads us to a continuous improvement as professionals. In case someone suggests a ridiculous design change, our goal should be to justify our decisions and educate them.

Juicy Salif
Who read Don Norman knows this is a squeezer

Functional design is our friend.

In order to take decisions that can be justified, we designers should create based on the needs of a specific goal. Data is a powerful tool to back up our decisions whenever it’s possible. Design must always be functional over pretty

Besides, as I commented before, it’s good to keep in our minds that we always design for somebody and not for us. Focusing on our target will help us not to get emotionally attached to our work. And this way, we’ll design for people, and not for our ego

P.D.: Feel free to comment and share your opinion. I’ll be glad to read your thoughts over this topic. Any sort of opinion will also be well accepted 😉