Humility is often an underdeveloped quality. Some books refer to it as an essential personality trait. I wholeheartedly agree. However, humility is much more than an essential quality for life and relationships, it can also make you a better designer!

Now, if you've read other pieces I've written, you know I'm a big fan of dictionary definitions. They can give another level of insight into a word. With that in mind, what does humility mean?

"A modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." —Dictionary.com

That definition is quite interesting isn't it? It communicates the idea that we’re limited. However, it doesn’t mean we should lack confidence in our abilities. Many confuse this quality as weakness when it really isn't. It's having the correct amount of confidence.

So now that we know what humility is, how does it help us become better designers? I'm all about being transparent so before we move on, I'll tell you that this is something I've had to work hard at. Here are a few things I’ve learned cultivating this quality and how it’s helped me become a better person and a better designer.

Ask for Help

There is no shame in asking for help. It doesn't matter how many years we've worked as designers, we get stuck. It doesn't mean we don't know how to do our job, it means we're human. In my personal experience, I've seen that I hesitate to ask based on pride and honestly, when I look back, it's stupid. Asking for help is one of the many ways to improve.

Hearing from people who have more years of experience (or even if they don't) can help you see problems you hadn't thought of or details that you missed. The perspective of someone else is oftentimes vital to the creation of a better solution to a design problem.

When You’re Asked For Help

When others ask you for help, try your best to be approachable and helpful. It can be difficult for someone to ask for help.

Time for a little anecdote. When I was fifteen, I worked at a small college radio station in my hometown. Fifteen-year-old me was eager to learn, ecstatic to be working at a radio station (I’ve always loved broadcasting) and, I’ll admit, annoying. I’ve never really been shy so, I asked tons of questions. Yet, every time I asked a question, I was always looked at like, “Ugh, here comes this kid again.”

As I look back, did I ask too many questions? Yes. But, it’s my belief, that everyone starts out that way. When you start out, you don’t know anything. It’s our responsibility to pay forward what knowledge we’ve acquired and help those who need it.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

Don't go creating mockups of how you would've solved the particular problem. As designers, we have to learn to think from different perspectives and let that influence the way we design. The growth of this ability is hindered when you do someone else’s job. Explain your thoughts and offer constructive criticism on how to improve the solution.

Recognize Your Mistakes

Now that you've asked for help, it's time to recognize the mistakes you made. More often than not, something will be wrong on a first attempt. Really, this applies to all situations. Sometimes you won't ask for help, you'll be presenting a design to clients and they'll give their thoughts and critique.

Trust me. I’ve made lots of mistakes and I know how tough it is to bite your tongue and realize you’ve messed up. Here's what's really interesting about our brain. Often, we know when we're wrong but we decide to ignore and fight against it.

Don't do it! Recognize your mistakes and be willing to accept critique. This is critical to not only your design career but, life.

Value the Opinion of Others

Great design is compromised by ego. Unfortunately, some designers and companies have made it popular to be arrogant. Arrogance doesn’t serve you, your team or your clients; Value their opinions and contributions. No matter how talented you are, there are always other talented people out there, some even more than yourself. When I came to terms with this fact, which is even truer in my case, I began learning, maturing and improving my craft.

Wrap It Up Tim!

To sum it all up, humility is definitely an important personality trait. Working towards this quality makes you a more likeable person and people will love working with you. Let’s be humble and make the web awesome.

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Tim Smith

Tim Smith is a former Development Consultant at Lullabot.