Design is not my only passion

// Let's be honest here

In the design and tech worlds it’s common to go by the motto My job is my only passion” and lucky are those for which this is true. That’s not my case, and it took me way too long to admit this. Still, I’m glad I was finally able to do it.

I’ve been working in the design field for the last 15 years 1, since my first job. Even if no one ever said it out loud, I’ve always felt this need, this obligation, to show that that’s what I was passioned about. In today’s world this obligation feels even stronger, due to the internet and the fact that our interactions, our posts, our hobbies, are visible by anyone.

You open a profile on a social media and who do you start following? People that do what you do. And what do you think after reading their posts?

I must write about my job, I need to show everyone 2 why I’m good at what I do. They need to understand that it’s not just something I do for money but it’s my passion, it’s what I live for.”

Well, I realised I really don’t care. Or better, I understood that this was the reason why I can never bother to sit down and write.

Why should I write yet another article on How to use AI for UX research when there are already hundreds of them online? Am I going to add something truly unique about it? There’s so many other people for which technology and UX are their only passions that already did an amazing job and I know I wouldn’t add anything meaningful to it.

I don’t want to repeat myself, and I don’t want to spend hours or days researching something that, in the end, I don’t care enough about. I want to be able to immerse myself in what I love and care about.

Does this impact my job in any way? Absolutely not. I love my job, and I’m always excited when I’m front of my screen designing stuff or doing research. I now have enough knowledge to face most of the problems I encounter and, after 15 years, I know when I need to do more research, get back to study, or just wait for a moment of inspiration.

Honestly, even the tech world started to bore me. I’ve been living in a dichotomy for a few years: I’m extremely intrigued by new technologies but, at the same time, I’m scared of how easy it is to lose way too much time trying to stay up to date and exploring everything there’s to try.

Once I applied the same reasoning of is-it-my-only-passion? to it I discovered what I always knew: no, it’s not. I like it, I find technology intriguing and I can get lost in it but it’s not what I want to live for. 3

I’ll keep following news related to my job, download apps where I can find inspiration, and read some books about tech, design, and UX but that’s because I need it for work. And I want to do a great job in my current role, without the need for it to absorb more time than what I feel 4 it should.

You may now wonder Ok, but what’s your passion then?” and the only thing I can say is… I’m not sure. It definitely is a mix of things.

I know what I enjoy and what I want to spend more time doing in my free time. That’s what’s important.

It includes climbing, traveling, taking and editing photos, writing and reading.

Some of them can be excluded because I’d do them anyway: climbing, traveling, and taking photos doesn’t clash with what I’ve been writing about. On the other hand, editing photos, writing, and reading are all things I know I want to dedicate more time to.

They are all tasks I feel proud of doing and I can spend days focusing on them without feeling a doubt creeping on saying Do you really care that much about this?

Post Scriptum: On the use of technology

My concern with how easy it is to waste time with all the various services we now have access to is that, most of the time, you have to think that there are billion-dollar-companies that spend an unthinkable amount of money in research just to find yet another way to keep you glued to your screen.

I know everyone knows that but have you ever thought about it?

Something I’ve been doing for the last few years is swapping passive actions with active ones: editing photos over scrolling Instagram, writing blog posts instead of scrolling through way too many of them 5, reading books or long-form articles 6 over short ones, etc.

I don’t think I’m the only one when I say that I used to do these things more often. Now, instead, I feel like time is slipping through my fingers and I’m never able to focus on what I want.

  • Uninstall social and entertainment apps, and games from my phone 7
  • Get rid of streaming services and prefer renting movies 8
  • Go back to read paper books 9
  • Fuck podcasts 10
  • Read news only from a few selected sources
  • Value human curation over algorithms and AI
  • Prefer long form content over short form one.

All of these activities require some form of effort that the other ones lack. And I think that (a bit of) effort is the key to truly enjoy things. There’s a satisfaction in creating something new and honest, or discovering things you’ve never thought about.

This can only be achieved with a bit of effort and a good amount of self-control 11.

I came back to realise that I prefer to climb a few hills and be able to enjoy the view 12.

  1. In my career I’ve been an architect, a 3D artist and animator, a graphic and then web designer, a manager of a design team of over 30 people scattered around the globe, and now a manager of a small UX team that works on an extremely complex product.↩︎

  2. Especially to a possible recruiter, let’s not kid ourselves.↩︎

  3. It’s not even what I want to talk about most of the time. There are so many things interesting in the world, why should I live as a one-dimensional character based on what my job history says?↩︎

  4. Feel, not think, and that’s important. There’s something inside you, a little voice you may have suppressed a long time ago, that tells you the right priority of all the different things you have in your life.↩︎

  5. Don’t get me wrong, here are some authors that I love and I’ll keep reading them. And that’s exactly my point: reading only what I care about, reading something that will make me grow and think.↩︎

  6. It may not seem like something that you can qualify as active but it still requires more involvement than reading tweets.↩︎

  7. These include: Instagram, Ivory for Mastodon, YouTube, Netflix, and Reeder for RSS.↩︎

  8. It’s a separate topic but it’s easy to see everyone talk about the latest TV show and get overwhelmed with FOMO. Only to discover it was shit, or OK at best. As always.↩︎

  9. I bought a Kindle for when I travel but, as convenient as it is, I now use long trips to force me to read books I’ve been postponing for way too long.↩︎

  10. They’re good for long trips with the car and that’s it. Compared to the amount of podcasts I see mentioned around me, I can count the ones that add something valuable to my life with just one hand.↩︎

  11. This is probably the most difficult part. Again, think about all the money invested so that you’ll waste your time. Also, one can enter in the loop of productivity-porn where, in an attempt to always improve themselves, they lose track of what they were trying to achieve in the first pace. But that’s a subject for another time…↩︎

  12. This phrase I just wrote made me think of a beautiful passage that explains why this kind of symbolisms is bad but fuck it, I’ll keep it anyway.

    It is a risk of mountaineering: to believe that the higher position authorizes one to despise the world below. An easy analogy between crystal-clear air and sincere soul, great healthiness, and elevated thoughts. This bar-room symbolism has inspired a steadfast literature on the purifying virtues of the mountain, where conquering the summit coincides with moral supremacy. In reality, being at the top never increases the value of the person. The individual does not transform. When reaching marvelous heights, he carries his misery with him.
    – Sylvain Tesson, Blanc

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