A couple of weeks ago I had a little downtime at work. Trying to remain proactive pushed me towards creating a design freebie to upload for other designers to do with what they wished, hoping someone would find it useful (you can view it here).
After a fairly positive reception it got me thinking about the roots of my design career and why I love my job and the people in our community. I began thinking about how to give something back, to give others the boost I had when I was starting out.
The digital industry is unique and unlike any other that has ever existed. Whereas other industries are typically focused on maximising profits and maintaining trade secrets the digital industry prides itself on the openness and friendliness of the individuals and companies it contains.
When I started out as a designer, ten or so years ago, I was amazed by how helpful the community was. Not only did its members spend their time giving constructive feedback, but they also created and gave stuff away for free.
These people provided the motivational environment that propelled me headfirst into my career. I still found myself being frustrated and annoyed on a regular basis, but with the support to help move past it and forward. Without them I don’t know what I’d be doing today.
So here we are in June 2015. After uploading my first proper freebie I realised I’d started on the path to helping others, in the same way others had helped me over 10 years ago.
It could definitely have done with with a bigger size, with more detail and probably some different file formats. Yet I know from seeing download statistics that people are interested, and it’s likely a few of those people will save it and use bits of it in the future.
That’s what it’s about. It’s about saving designers time and effort on repetitive tasks so they can focus on what’s really important. An example of this would be thinking about how much time you’d waste if you had to source individual social network logos every time you needed them, rather than reaching for your trusty icon font. To paraphrase Hot Fuzz, it’s for the greater good.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make?
I guess what I’m really trying to say is that all of us will someday get to a point in our career when we have the skill and reach to start giving something back. It’s slowly becoming our responsibility to ensure that the new talent entering the industry have the same boost that we did when we were first started out. It could be with feedback, freebies or even motivational and experiential writing.
The developers I work with have been doing this for years. Open sourcing their work on Github (See our latest project Herbert), contributing to other projects and collectively striving for better understanding and code.
I’ll be the first to say it’s much harder for designers to contribute to the community. Perhaps it’s our constant desire to better our work, that we feel it’s never quite finished or isn’t worth sharing. Whatever the reason is, it shouldn’t deter us from our mission to create impactful and powerful user experiences in our work and helping others do the same.
If you have something you think others would find useful, just tidy it up and throw it out there because the chances are somebody will find it useful and you’ll be making a difference to them — the same way others have made a difference to you.