As designers — whether it’s UX, interactive, branding, or graphic—we think of ourselves as creators. We’re proud to be makers, not just consumers. We take a blank canvas with a set of initial constraints and bring fresh ideas to life. We’re happiest when we’re making new things.
But take a moment to think about the work you’ve done this past year. How much of it is really new?
How often do you fall back into reusing tried and true patterns rather than exploring innovative solutions?
How often has your work been influenced by a collection of all the best ideas you’ve seen elsewhere (sometimes subconsciously), with few truly original concepts of your own?
Don’t fret. We’re all like that. It turns out that a huge part of design is just effective curation.
You’re a curator
You’re a curator when you search your library of fonts to find just the right typeface for a new brand. Even a type designer rarely creates original work — most new typefaces involve rehashing inspirational forms from the past.
You’re a curator when you troll through stock photos to locate the perfect match for your hero statement. Even when you art-direct custom photography or illustrations, you’re influenced by trends you’ve absorbed before.
You’re a curator when you call upon your years of honed designer’s instinct and pluck out design solutions you know will work without having to explore alternatives. That button style or form control doesn’t need to be reinvented for every project. You curate to save time when creating from scratch is inefficient.
Do you work on an established product with a mature design system? You’re rarely creating anything new, but that doesn’t mean you’re not designing. Thoughtful curation of your design system’s options lets you pick the right combination of solutions for each context.
Your entire job may be different forms of curation, with only a rare chance to truly create.