Mapping Your Design Futures

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Updated October 11, 2023
Land Your Dream Design Job

You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Now that you’re familiar with the job criteria, take a step back to brainstorm what aspects of that criteria are important to you. You can use this job evaluation template to get started. One way to think about your next role is in the context of your previous positions. What lessons did you learn there? What was useful and what wasn’t as useful? What do you want to do more or less of?

Envisioning Different Futures

When we think of career paths we might think of a linear, incremental line steadily progressing as we’re improving a little bit every day. But oftentimes progress is not linear. Sometimes you hit a plateau and stagnate, other times you break through and grow fast. Imagine how your design career and your life can unfold in the next five years. You can look at this from a couple of perspectives.

Here are a few futures to experiment with:

  1. What would your future look like given the current trajectory and if you stayed in the role that you’re currently in over the next few years?

  2. What if you specialized in a specific domain, for example healthcare or e-commerce design, over the next few years? What would your path look like?

  3. Imagine everything you wanted to do in design came true. What would a day in the life look like in your wildest dreams? What would you need to make happen to get there?

In addition to these questions, add your own criteria as well. Map each scenario out over each year. How does your current trajectory look in year one, what happens in year two, and so on?

These thought exercises are useful, and as you’re going through the criteria and thinking about trade-offs, it also helps to do some research to start exploring companies and roles. This will help you understand what’s out there and how these opportunities could translate into your own career vision. Feel free to experiment and try out multiple scenarios to see how they fit and feel.

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about applying design thinking to your life, take a look at Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. If you’re interested more in futures thinking, check out What the Foresight, by Alida Draudt and Julia Rose West. We commonly think about the future on a linear scale, where things improve gradually over time. This book challenges this notion by introducing multiple futures.

Shaping Your Identity15 minutes, 7 links

Before diving into portfolio case studies it’s important to step back and think about the type of design prowess that you bring.

Uncover Your Superpowers

Product designer is a generic title. In companies like Facebook, regardless of seniority, everyone is a product designer and so it’s hard to understand who is senior, which level they’re at, or even what their strengths and weaknesses are. That’s why it’s important to define the type of product designer you are—one way to do so is by highlighting your own superpowers.

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