How We Do: Diversity in Design

By Jonathan Howell

Since starting here at Focus Lab, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a bunch of different things, like e-newsletters, icons, a complete brand refresh, and a little bit of user interface design.

This is something that I’m grateful for–being able to work on different deliverables gives people the opportunity to explore different approaches to design and they are able to find things they are good at or enjoy doing. Since joining the team, I’ve begun to have this overwhelming love for creating icons. I am not the best at them so I’ve been taking notes from Matt Yow and Charlie Waite. I can tell that my skills have improved in the past four months.

Prior to working here, I hadn’t created a single icon! So, getting down to the nitty-gritty of this post, I want to talk about the importance of diversity in design. I’m not talking about different styles of design, but about creating different deliverables, be they web- or print-based, to help determine your specialty in design. This may seem like a no-brainer but so often you see designers with the same body of work on Behance and Dribbble. There are a ton of UI designers and all of their shots are awesome user interfaces but I think it’s important that people step out of that comfort zone and go beyond what they know they’re good at.

For me, I’m starting to do more icon design and illustration stuff, which is outside of my wheelhouse. I’ve worked on a good amount of branding stuff and drawing random things in Illustrator when hashing out ideas for new and/or existing brands, so it’s not a total stretch. But there are things out there that I do fear (in a sense) that are more of a stretch, like my craftsmanship in making prototypes or hand lettering. I’ve wanted to take these on and improve my skills even though they may not be useful in my everyday work. But they’re useful and interesting skills for application down the road.

The basis of this post was to reiterate how important it is to do things that aren’t comfortable and not be “stuck” behind your computer 40 hours a week. I listen to a philosopher named Alan Watts on occasion and we spend 60% of our lives working, so do something you are okay doing for many years to come. One of the things I constantly try to incorporate into my life is the standard here at Focus Lab called “Work to Live.” I sometimes get so wrapped up in what I’m doing on the computer and forget that there’s so much more than creating stuff on a computer. I’ll continue to try and step out of my comfort zone and incorporate diversity within my life of design and I encourage you to do the same. You may find something you love or maybe even something you’re really good at.