As I’ve progressed in my design career, one thing I’ve noticed is how much more of my time I spend writing. I guess this shouldn’t come as a big surprise to me, considering that the design professionals for whom I have the most respect — Julie Zhou, Kristin Skinner, and Don Norman, to name a few — all have a plethora of books and articles published in their names.
The term “writing,” perhaps because of the final nature of these books and articles, sometimes feels like a bit of a loaded word. “Writing” is often associated with words strung together in orchestral perfection, but what we see of other people’s writing — the public product in its sublime end state — is only a tiny fraction of the process.
My Writing at Nubank
Some of my writing, like the questions I meticulously prep before one-on-one meetings or my never-ending list of potential writing topics, is private. However, a considerable portion of my writing at Nubank, like the vision document I created for the upcoming year or the proposal I put together for a design development program, is public (within the company).
Writing helps me organize my thoughts, ideate, and perhaps most importantly, reflect. The exact how or why behind my writing might change depending on where I’m at in the design journey, but the benefits are the same.
In the early stages of a project, for example, I usually prefer the noncommittal squeak of whiteboard scribbles. These fruitful notes and drawings can then be faithfully pruned and translated into actionable next steps (as long as you remember to take a picture of the whiteboard for reference before it gets erased!)
During flashes of inspiration, on the other hand, I depend heavily on my purple notebook, which I have with me at (almost) all times. I usually draw small illustrations of lightbulbs in the margin, or at least add big asterisks next to the entry notes, so that they stand out as items that deserve more research and attention.
And when I feel like my various thoughts are overflowing, nothing beats an early morning in the office alone with my computer. With my laptop I can quickly wade through endless paragraphs of thought-vomit, editing and deleting text until it’s concise and meaningful.
Once a workable draft is in place, I can then easily share a link with my coworkers to get feedback using programs like Google Docs or Medium.
Writing = Forced Reflection
Writing, the act of composing text in a coherent manner, forces reflection by definition. The forced reflection necessitated by writing, in turn, makes the act of writing itself an inherently personal process. It’s important to note that striving to compose words and ideas with clarity and cogency is a deeply personal experience, regardless of the end state of the content.
It doesn’t matter whether a draft is eventually printed in a publication with loyal readership numbers in the millions or discarded altogether — the initial reflective bit is the same for both pieces of text. When it comes to writing, everyone has different styles, different inspirations, and different aspirations, but in the end, the learnings that come out of the preliminary reflection phase are what bring the most value to us as designers.
The goal of this short, unstructured piece was to give you a glimpse into my personal reflections about writing through writing. Ultimately, I hope that by sharing a sneak peek into how writing plays a role in my job as a designer at Nubank, you can see how a little forced reflection might help you in your work, too.
How does writing help in your design work? Share your comments!