Designing a 10/10 Product

Rule #9: Be T-shaped

OK, for Rule #9 we’re taking a little step from process to personal. 

One question young creatives ask often is, “Should I go deep on one specialty, or should I be a generalist and be versatile?”

The answer is going to vary from person to person, but we think it’s best to aspire to be T-shaped.

That means you’re broad (you know about the top level of different skills that work with you), but you also go deep on what you know best.

Broad across a lot of discipline, deep down one.

A team full of T-shaped people can work off each other but still have ownership and deep knowledge of one thing. Contrast to a bunch of Is, deep knowledge, no cross-bar. How do they communicate effectively?

For me, I guess you could say I went on a non-linear journey in my career. I started out working in the film industry. Fun fact, I’m actually in the film Animal Kingdom (watch out for the Vietnamese waitress about 10-15mins into the beginning).

I also worked as a photographic assistant before my first design studio job, and I’ve worked across different design disciplines, from branding to campaign, signage to fashion, in my time.

I’ve come to the point where I’ve realised that having these varied experiences—all creative in their own way—have helped shape my design thinking. They’re strengths to be leveraged. And keeping your brain learning exercises that growth mindset muscle.

So if you’re well-rounded person, you’re better placed to properly gain a real understanding of the industry your product or piece of work sits in, what they actually do, what’s important to them, and what they’re aiming to achieve. Where they want their business to go. 

For Streamtime, we step into the shoes of the project manager, the business owner, and the designer over and over again. We learn, from a top level, what they need in their day to day. How else could we build a product that’s right for them?

We’re a bunch of T-shaped people. 

So strive to be T-shaped. Learn a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. Cultivate empathy. You’ll be a better designer for it.  And grow your growth mindset, which in turn, grows your creativity.

Keen to learn more?

We’re sharing our Product Design Playbook. 10 rules we follow when we design. Head here to read other posts from the series.

Sarah Nguyen

Sarah leads product design in our team based in Sydney. She loves pizza but hates bananas.

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