The lies we tell ourselves as designers

Or “beware of euphemisms.”

Photo by Headway

What we say:
“Let’s look at it on Monday first thing in the morning with fresh eyes.”

What we mean:
“Dude, it’s Friday 5pm. I’m fried. You’re fried. But let’s not admit it.”

What ends up happening:
Monday-first-thing-in-the-morning never happens. In most cases for the best.


What we say:
“I like where you’re going, but I also wonder if we should explore…”

What we mean:
“I don’t like where you’re going.”

What ends up happening:
The designer, who was clearly going in the wrong direction, is never clearly told they were wrong, or what was wrong about it. A whole generation of designers grow up thinking they have always been right. And can’t understand when they end up receiving negative feedback later on.


What we say:
“What we’re showing here is just a high-level overview of what we’ve been exploring in the last two weeks, of course this will keep evolving.”

What we mean:
“We were not brave enough to make any decisions and/or to clearly state them on a slide. And although we had two weeks we were not thorough enough to finalize what we started. So we’ll just do a whole presentation avoiding strong point of views that could hurt our relationship in case you disagree with what we’re saying.”

What ends up happening:
The work gets pushed two extra weeks.


What we say:
“We’ve run some informal user testing sessions here in the office, and found out people were having a hard time identifying with what was on the screen.”

What we mean:
“I showed it to the guy who sits next to me and he didn’t like it.”

What ends up happening:
Nothing. Really.


What we say:
“I hear what you’re saying. We can definitely explore your suggestion as we refine the designs.”

What we mean:
“I don’t like your idea, sorry. I’ll pretend I try to incorporate your suggestions, and then I’ll come up with some random excuse for why it didn’t work out.”

What ends up happening:
Not a single pixel is moved.


Now in all honesty: indirect speech can help us feel better in the short term and avoid confrontational situations, but has a negative effect in the long run. Design is a team sport — and as any other team sport it requires trust and honesty amongst players. Naming a bad feeling what it really is forces you to confront it, and forces you, as a team, to learn how to overcome it.

Less euphemisms. More maturity. Please.