How to do The UX Design Dance
Why mood matters in your UX career
Imagine you’ve woken up on an overcast Tuesday and you’re moving slow. You snooze your alarm, slunk out of bed, and throw on a t-shirt that you’ve had since high school. You do your morning routine, half-awake, and only begin to come alive once the coffee from your hand-crafted mug kicks in. When you sit down for work, you’re overwhelmed by emails, slacks, and calendar invites. Your laptop screen is a pattern of red polka dots, each filled with a different number inside. There are notifications to get through, people to answer, meetings to attend…and it’s not even 10am yet. You’re expected to show up to these meetings with ideas. To respond to your slacks with enthusiasm. To converse in your zoom calls with overdramatic expressions. But most of all, you’re expected to be creative. After all, you are a designer.
The role of a product designer is unique in that we are, in a lot of ways, the party starters. Engineers can’t do their work without our designs and PMs have nothing to manage if there isn’t a product vision. It’s only when designers show up to the venue that the party can get started. This responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your colleagues look to you and respect you for bringing life to the products that they spend their days coding and creating. They trust your opinion on which color to use, which component works best, which interactions and movements would feel the most natural. These are the seemingly small details that make your products pop; the details that attract users and keep them interested. These design decisions are the dance moves that you bust out as the first one on the dance floor, and they invite other party-goers to come dance with you.
Now, imagine you wake up on an overcast Tuesday, only this time you immediately choose a song to listen to. This song makes you feel energized, motivated, inspired. Maybe its rap, or jazz, or power pop. Maybe it’s Mozart, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that this song brings you to move confidently as you squeeze toothpaste onto your toothbrush. It makes you slide in your socks as you dance into your kitchen to fill your hand-crafted mug with coffee. It flows through your veins like caffeine and ignites your sense of playfulness.
You dance. Before you sit down to work, you sway your hips. You shake your shoulders. You dust off your sleepiness and prepare your mind for a full days work ahead. When you open your laptop, the red polkadots and their numbers are still there, only you don’t mind as much. You’ll respond, you’ll zoom, you’ll design. It will all get done.
Now, when you’re expected to be creative, it comes much more naturally. Like the music that flowed through your body in the morning, the ideas come through in waves. You’ve opened up your mind to that part of yourself that seeks pleasure, the part that enjoys life. This is where your best ideas come from. They don’t come from you sitting in front of a computer screen in silence, wishing you didn’t have any meetings today. They come from you pausing your favorite song to open up zoom and listen to what your colleagues have to say. Your ability to digest the feedback, opinions, and suggestions from your coworkers is directly correlated to how open your mind is. The easiest way to open your mind is to get in touch with your playful nature.
As designers, it is up to us to bring the energy. It is our unique power to pump up the party with our zany creativity and unique perspectives. When we come to creative design solutions, those solutions end up energizing our team. They inspire those around us and motivate them to do their best work. After all, who wants to code a greyscale, single-page, motionless product that goes no where? That type of design is the exact equivalent to waking up on a cloudy Tuesday and doing your morning routine in complete silence. Let’s not do that to our coworkers.
And so, my fellow designers, I urge you to make a practice out of dancing in the morning. Start your day with a simple act of self-love and get moving. Enjoy the feeling of freedom that some hearty fist-pumping can bring you. One of the best tools we have as human beings is our ability to control our own minds. We are not slaves to instinct or subject to impulse. We have every ability to positively influence our own thoughts and our own energies. Make a practice of this. Doing so will not only start and end your days with much more creativity and movement, it will also inspire those around you to join in.