Monday, July 15, 2013

I am not a designer

I have a difficult time claiming to be a designer. I often feel like a fraud. Even at work where I come in on a daily basis and design tools for people, I feel like saying "can you believe I am getting away with this?!"

Just writing this makes me feel super vulnerable. However, it's the truth and I have been feeling it for some time now. The reason that I am bringing this up now is that I want to unpack "why." I believe that I feel this way because I did not go to college to become a designer - I studied art history and chemistry.  About 7 years after working in museums in the curatorial departments, I went to graduate school for design and technology. I got my masters degree and learned how to think like a designer, I believe, but not really how to be a designer.  On some level I definitely feel like a designer, but then I see real designers out there in the world and start to return to the thought that I am not a designer.

If you are reading this and a follower of my blog, you are probably rolling your eyes a little bit here. I worked at the Institute of Play, Sesame Street, National Geographic and now at Mozilla - as a designer - and created Hackasaurus, Thimble, Webmaker  and Rockaway Help - so how can this feeling be true? Why is Jessica so damn insecure and lacking of confidence. I actually think that the answer connects back to the work that I am doing at Mozilla on badges and validation. I think that because I never got the validation for being a designer, from my peers, from my professors etc, that it is hard for me to accept this.  And you know what - I am not alone! Many designers or people in the tech field who I talk to about this say that they feel the same way. I think that this is on some level the "impostor syndrome" - not feeling like you are good at something because you aren't great at everything. With the badges project, we are really exploring alternatives to assessment and validation, alternatives that may help me squash this nagging "I am not a designer" voice in my head. This brings me to this little social experiment that I would like your help with. Can you answer this question:

Am I a designer? 

I want to hear the kinds of feedback that peers will give me and see patterns in the kinds of responses that I get.  Please respond to this post, or if you feel more comfortable, shoot me an email.