Finding Your Design Identity

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read these two words: design identity?

If you are thinking this is just an alternative way of referring to your brand or brand identity, you’re wrong. 

Here’s why:

Your brand is how people perceive you.

A brand is the recognizable feeling a product or business evokes...They live in the minds of everyone who experiences them.

---Brian Lischer

 

Your brand identity is how you want to be perceived and what you create to influence that perception (logos, color palette, etc). 

 

Brand identity is the collection of all elements that a company creates to portray the right image to its consumer.

---Deanna deBara


Your design identity is who you are as an instructional designer. 

 Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.

---Epictetus

 

To discover your design identity is to undergo self-discovery without the pressure to live up to expectations or the pretense of figuring how to portray yourself to attract attention & prove your value.

 This work may seem less appealing and tangible than creating a website or logo, but doing this work is essential to authentically communicating who you are and what you do in order to find meaningful work.

 Here are some steps to discover your design identity:

 

1) Start where you are

First, let’s mentally do a quick personal inventory:

  • Are you a new or seasoned instructional designer?
  • What is your current skill set?
    • Are you stronger at design or development?
    • How comfortable do you feel with conducting analysis?
    • Do you have experience using a learning management system?
  • In which tools/software are you proficient?
  • What gets you excited about instructional design?
  • What is your first instinct when faced with a performance problem or training request?
  • When you design for fun, what colors, shapes & styles do you gravitate toward? 

Note any other attributes or skills you have as a designer.

2) Dream

Next, close your eyes and imagine the grandest idea that you have for your future as a designer:

  • What type of instructional designer do you dream of being?
  • What is your dream project?
  • What would an ideal workday look like for you?
  • What does that tell you about who you are and what you want?

 Keep in mind that this should reflect what you truly desire and not what you think other people or the industry want. 

3) Explore

If you have no idea how to answer any of the previous questions, experiment with different software tools and types of projects, talk to people whose jobs look interesting, and volunteer for different instructional design opportunities/challenges until you do have an idea. 

If you think you know exactly how to answer, put it to the test. Try something new and see if that holds true when you are out of your comfort zone. 

 

4) Reflect

Take a step back to reflect and notice the patterns. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What am I good at, what do I enjoy doing, and where do those overlap?
  • What do I believe about design, its use, and the process?
  • What sort of problems do I tend to want to solve?
  • How do I approach new problems and go about solving them?
    • See how IDOL courses Academy member Nada El Maliki streamlined her approach to instructional design problems. 
  • Do I find fulfillment in the process or the finished product?
  • What is my go-to tool or visual style?

 

This is a great step in which to reconcile your dreams with your current abilities as a designer and how much effort it would realistically take you to get from your present situation to your dreams.

 Get out a pen and a piece of paper to follow along with this Ikigai exercise lead by Chris Do of The Futur:

 

 

When you think you’ve found your instructional design sweet spot, keep practicing to become your best! 

 Discovering your design identity is an ongoing process that requires asking hard questions and trying new things. The best part is that design identity is not about what others think; it is all about you.

 So, who are you?

 Once you figure that out, the next step is to figure out how you can use your design identity to deliver value to others.

 

Written by: Ashanti Henderson

Ashanti is a learning designer and IDOL courses Academy alumna. She is enthusiastic about empowering learners and businesses to meet their goals! Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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