1 min read

Good Skills Take Time

So you’re a year or two [or five] out of design school. You’ve trained. You know what good design is. And what you’re doing isn’t it.

(Disclaimer: ‘you’ can also mean ‘I’. I find myself in this situation a lot, usually after I’ve done a set of wireframes only to realise that the flow won’t work).

Yes, it’s frustrating – particularly as according to Malcolm Gladwell, you should have probably hit your 10,000 hours of learning to be an expert. And funnily enough, give a year or two, you’ll be experienced enough to call yourself a ‘senior designer’.

In other professions that isn’t the case – the traditional apprentice would expect to toil at menial and then copying-the-master tasks for a good decade or two, while those in med school or law school don’t even make it out of the school gates for at least 5 years (OK, human life and justice probably deserve a bit more traning time).

But one of the most inspiring examples of how long it can take to get good at something came from American radio presenter and producer Ira Glass.

Glass gives some wonderful advice: namely that to commit to a creative career inevitably means that for a period of time the work you product will fall painfully short of your own standards of what is considered good. It’s easy to forget this in areas such as journalism and design where there isn’t as high a level of mechanical skill learning needed (as say, learning a sport or instrument).

What’s more, he not only reveals that he was a slow learner, but proves it. In the clip, he plays back footage from his 8th year (yes, 8) as a radio journalist, to show … that even after eight years he still wasn’t very good.

I have to admit that if I wasn’t good at something after eight years, I’d probably admit defeat and do something else. But the fact that Glass went on to a national audience is a testament to the power of perseverence. I’ll try to keep this in mind when I struggle with my next set of wireframes.