Why Designers Need to Be ‘Specialized Generalists’

Being ‘T-shaped’ will make you more effective and more valuable

Benek Lisefski
Modus
Published in
10 min readOct 10, 2019

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Illustrations courtesy of the author

Should you be a generalist or a specialist designer?

You don’t have to choose. It turns out neither of them alone is enough. A combination of both makes you more valuable, employable, collaborative, and flexible. A great designer needs to know a lot about multiple things.

Some call it being T-shaped, a deep generalist, a specialized generalist, or even multi-hyphenate. If you want to succeed in the modern design world, this is what you have to become.

Time to move past two deficient labels

Generalists are thought of as jacks of all trades, masters of none. Their wide range of transferable skills makes them flexible to evolve their careers over time, but they trade breadth for a lack of depth, and most never achieve enough mastery in any one subject to be seen as experts or thought leaders. Generalists make good team players because their broad experience helps them talk across boundaries, but when it comes time for the nitty-gritty work they might find themselves drowning in the deep end.

Specialists are seen as experts in their field; the extra training and work experience they’ve gained has allowed…

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Benek Lisefski
Modus
Writer for

I’m a UX/UI designer from Auckland, New Zealand. Writing about freelancing & business for indie designers & creatives at https://solowork.co