UX designers nightmare — the curse of knowledge and Imposter syndrome

UX designers nightmare — the curse of knowledge and Imposter syndrome

You need to understand that people are judgmental.

Ones I thought I had everything figured out for me. I was very much passionate about my work and happy too. I thought all of what I said and done is reflected properly by my work. The ideas we discuss and the designs we make every day are looked at by people who are interacting with them. People come up with different needs, goals, and behaviors most of the time. We as designers always try to cater to their needs and problems and find out solutions.

Have you ever wondered when complex designs get through as excellent and you wonder what it’s your luck which helped you, but not your skill set? Do you think hard work is the only way you got this done correctly on time? Well, think twice because you need to sort things out about your self.

If you have not heard about the Imposter syndrome and curse of knowledge, you are missing out important things. In my article, I am going to look into these values from a UX designer’s perspective and how it can affect a UX designer.

Understanding imposter syndrome

This phenomenon is one of the most common incidents that most of the designers would go through at least one part of their lives. There have been many talks on this among the community. You will be able to find hundreds of articles, videos, and discussions on this topic.

Like every other good syndrome, this also has a definition. It is as following. Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” — wikipedia.

The imposter syndrome has made an impact in many different industries in the modern age. If you are a designer who is just starting your career it takes time for you to get in to shape with other professional designers who care much more capable. This is where most of the time people get in to this syndrome.

There are few symthoms that can help you to find if you are having the Imposter Syndrome if you are a designer. When I was first reading through these I noticed that some of these symthoms are grate design techniques but the time and engery you put in to it is not worth it.

  1. Working long hours every day — You may spend long hours thinking of perfecting the solution that you are making regardless of the time that you spend on them. You imagine that your skill set is not enough to perform at your best.That makes you miss our personal life.
  2. Supervisor design review —When you give your designs to be reviewed by the supervisors sometimes and if they find your designs as good ones they will commend you. In that case you might think that they are lying to you or not knowing you are cheating. If they think your design is bad most of the time people go on defence thinking that the reviewers are taking a pop at you.
  3. You can not figure your self out — Most of the time we pretend for someone whom you are not. The real you is hidden somewhere and you put your makeup on start pretending every day. Your insecurity place of fear makes you ware a mask every day.
  4. Perfection to pixel — If you consider your sketches to wireframes to the visual designs to be pixel perfect, that means your designs are always the best.Most of the time you create your pixel perfect designs because you may think that your designs will not be good enough. The fear of other people will noticing your mistakes in design.
  5. You worry about your contribution — The contribution from you towards a company is a measurement of your dedication towards your work. Imposter’s reaction is to read the worst into that little detail. You may think that you have nothing good to contribute and you didn’t contributed at all. This thought is self made or being created and planted in your head by others.

How we can treat them

  1. Look at situations positively rather than negatively — Most of the time, if you look at the situation negatively and think negative thoughts only your positive intentions, would be hidden and you may not have anything to move forward with. Most of the time, the situations that you are in are not as bad as you think. If you find that there is a meeting which is really important but they didn’t add your name to it, then don’t spend time waiting to think about the doubts have in your mind. Talk to the people who you should talk to and get feedback on
  2. Focus on your strengths and fix your weaknesses — The idea here is to not to forget your weaknesses but to improve your strengths while fixing your mistakes. When you focus on your mistakes only the level of depression that you go through is higher. If someone tells your weaknesses over and over again and make a drama out of it then it is a frustration for you to function properly. You have to focus on what strengths you contain to keep away the negativity and focus on your weaknesses in a more constructive manner.
  3. Gain good skills in Emotional Intelligence — This is a really good skill that you need to improve. You should be able to take note of your own thoughts and feelings in situations where you get emotional and to think as an imposter about your self.
  4. Talk about your feelings to your close friends — When you have this feeling of having the imposter syndrome it’s better to talk about it with your colleagues at work. If you don’t any good colleagues you can always talk to your friends your thoughts and feelings. It is always good to talk about things rather than keeping to your self.
  5. Get feedback all the time — You need to talk to people who look at your work all the time and get feedback on your work when possible. You have to be very careful of the feedback you are trying to get. Feedback can be a double edge knife. If it’s becoming more negative feedback and more personal, take only the points they say but don’t think personal regarding it.

These are some common points that you can take if you are a designer to improve your self and get rid of the imposter syndrome.

The Curse of knowledge

The other most common cognitive bias we designers go through is the curse of knowledge. As designers, we interact with humans every day. We communicate with them to understand their problem and to deliver a top solution that would fulfill their needs.

The meaning of the curse of knowledge is as follows.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.

A designer has to go through this everytime they create a new website, creating a new feature or a crisp logo to impress the client. You sometimes see that the client or the user don’t get what you are trying to say in the designs you create. When you communicate with your clients do they understand you all the time? Do your colleagues understand you when you explain something complex? They most of the time act as they do due to other reasons but that reflect when come to access you. You can avoid this danger by understanding what you need to work as a UX designer.

Understand how a person thinks — We think that a human thinks like we write a paragraph on the paper (one after another). We tend to talk summarizing facts without explaining details. Most of the time this can be seen in the top managing level of the hierarchy. When they speak logic and conversation in business, they talk in more an abstract manner rather than explaining little details. This conversation can be understood by someone who has the same domain knowledge on what they are talking about, but not a lower level employeee which do not understand the business conversation this can be gibberish.

Misunderstood communication — Communication is the key to create good relationships. Overconfidence in communication creates you miss the point of the communication and the final result. That makes you underestimate the final result of the problem. This is one of the most common problem for designers. The problem of overconfidence in communication was tested by a Stanford University student in late 1990 using two groups of people. One group was named as “tappers” and the other group as “listeners”. The tappers were given the task of “tapping” the songs and the listeners have to listen to the songs being tapped. Before they tapped the song, the tappers were asked to guess the time the listeners got the song name correctly. When they were asked to predict how many songs listeners would guess, they predicted 50%. However, listeners heard only a series of seemingly disconnected taps. Indeed, of all the songs, tapped out, listeners correctly guessed only 3%.

This will tell you how bad a situation can be if the people or the target audience that you trying to talk, don’t understand what you are talking about. In order to avoid those problems, there are two main things that you can do.

Always use examples when you are communicating — When you are in an important meeting and you need to explain something and if you feel like you need to explain more on the idea that you have to tell, use examples to explain what it is about. It does not matter if you can take a little time to get to the point. This will help you to understand if what you are telling is understood by the others.

Understand who you are talking to — People have a different knowledge level when come to understand what they hear. You need to understand what to talk to when communicating into different focus groups. To avoid people falling off from your conversation by making it relevant to the people who you are talking to. The communication gap between the user and what you are speaking need to be mitigated. Assume a situation where you are speaking with someone whose first language is not English. If you speak complex sentences and continue the communication they might fall off from communicating with you because they don’t understand what you are telling. So be simple in those scenarios and let your self open to what other person says. Help him or her in their difficult situations where they want to find some words to explain their problems to you.

These are some really simple things that you can do to improve your self from the situation of having the curse of knowledge.

I told these things from my personal experience of being a product designer for nearly 3 years. I would be very much thankful if you can have a look at it and give me constructive feedback so I can improve my self.


UX designers nightmare — the curse of knowledge and Imposter syndrome was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.