Design Gatekeeping, Initial Thoughts

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I’ve been thinking a lot about “gatekeeping” in the workplace lately. As someone working in the software world, I have plenty of experience with co-workers directly judging my work (pull requests anyone?). But even so, I have a hard time understanding the level of gatekeeping and pretentiousness of the design community.

Anecdotally, it seems the entirety of the professional design community is incapable of open-mindedness or personal satisfaction. I don’t think I’ve met a designer, of any kind, that has done all(or most) of the following:

  • Like those before them
  • Like those around them
  • Been a positive influence to those below them
  • Felt secure in their own performance and value

From the view of someone adjacent to designers everyday, it feels like a whole group of people actively working against the success of their own peers. They also seem to completely disregard any one who isn’t a “designer”, and actively work against people entering into their industry. (See some of the links listed below)

It’s such a foreign way to work for me. The software world is built around a core concept of free and open software. Software anyone, anywhere can contribute to and build upon. Think Linux, or Android, or Postgres, or Vue. Our industry is also leading the way in introducing people to the field with bootcamps, mentorship programs, and falling education “requirements”.

Again, this is all anecdotal experiences. I’m 100% sure there are great members of the profession design community out there. In fact, I’ve worked with plenty of great and competent designers, I just wouldn’t call them an inclusive bunch.

To sum up, whether it’s design, software, or flipping burgers, a diverse and open community will always produce better, more unique, and more desirable results.

Some articles that sum up some of my points much better than I:

To Get More Creative, Become Less Judgemental

Stop Gatekeeping User Experience

Why are people in design so pretentious?


Final (and off topic) note:

To all digital product designers: there are more design systems out there than just Google’s Material Design and Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines. To name a few:

Please stop treating every product as if you need sign off from Matias Duarte or Jony Ive.


I’m sure some follow up is required. Maybe in another post. ¯\(ツ)