One of my first UX projects at Essential Design in Boston alongside the iRobot Team

About being a designer and an idealist.

This happened in the middle of the financial crisis, when companies were hit hard and there were a lot of layoffs happening.

Yet I was quitting my job. I was doing pretty well at that job, having exceeded my goals, gotten financial bonuses etc… and they wanted me to stay.

I had a meeting with the VP of the area I worked in. I liked the VP who was a really nice person. The VP asked if it was a money issue and if a raise would help. I said it wasn’t a money issue. The VP asked if it was an issue of title and moving up in the ranks: “would a promotion do it?” — I responded by saying “No, I just want to create new things”. The VP said “Oh, I see. You are an idealist”.

I am not sure if he was being genuine (like the VP really saw me as an idealist) or if that was meant in a negative light. What I do know is that I felt that being an idealist in the VP’s eyes was just “not smart” for some reason. I don’t remember any other exchange from that day.

Prior to that conversation I had already decided to go to grad school and become a user experience designer. See, designers are always looking to improve things. We love beauty, harmony, symmetry, and we love when things and systems work integrated in a seamless fashion. I wanted to design, to help bring order and beauty to the world around me.

I look around me and I see so many places, services and products that need to be better designed to serve the world better.

We are not powerless. The world we live in is a direct consequence of the choices we make. And many of these choices are made by designers and engineers creating our world.

I want a world with clean energy. That is a design and engineering choice. We choose how to manufacture and consume energy.

I want a world with minimal waste, where we re-use materials and recycle them. That is a design and engineering choice. We choose what materials we use to package goods, manufacture goods and what to do with them after they have served their initial purpose.

I want a world where applications and intelligent systems help bring peace and productivity to my life, so I can spend quality time with my wife. That is a design and engineering decision. We choose what apps we build, what monetization strategies we employ and what problems we choose to solve with our products.

I want a world without discrimination, without poverty and without war. That is a design choice too! We design and engineer our laws, and we design and engineer borders and treaties.

Some might call me naive, or tell me that this desire to make things better is idealism. And that my idealism is foolish. Maybe that is what the VP meant.

But I will take being foolish 100.000.000 times over, as long as it means I am trying to make a positive impact in the world.

Because we can do better. We can live better. We can design better. I am an idealist. And I won’t apologize for it.

Oh, and I am not alone. There are a bunch of people like me, trying to design great products, or start companies, or change how things are done in their schools or hospitals or communities.

If you are one of us, by all means, let your voice be heard. We will all be better off for it.

Follow me on twitter: @diegomendes