Design is a Job by Mike Montiero

First, a note: this review is of the first edition of the Design Is a Job, not the recently-released second edition. I’ve read a lot of A Book Apart books and I can tell you that their second editions have never produced a worse book than the first edition — and the first editions are always excellent. So go get the second edition if you can.

I bought this book when it came out because I saw Mike give a presentation about being a good designer, probably at An Event Apart. I then stuck it on a shelf. That was about 10 years ago, when I was still an arrogant snot-nosed designer raised in the Philly area who thought she knew it all. Considering Mike’s reputation for much of the same (including the Philly) someone should have shoved the book in my hands, chained me to a chair, and said “LEARN.”

Now I’m 15+ years into my career as a UX Designer and knowledgable enough to know that if I want to to keep being an arrogant know-it-all designer I have to do better at knowing it all, and I have to work on my delivery. There’s only so many times in your life that you can get away with having “Must work on communication skills” will show up on your review before everything else about your growth won’t matter. Fortunately, I learned that a few years ago, and now I’m actually listening to people and, damn, that makes work easier.

This book will teach you those lessons faster, if you’re willing to learn. If you’re willing to learn, this will teach you how to work with a lawyer, what belongs in your contracts, how and why to talk about money, and how to present. If you’re not willing to learn, this book will present reasons on why you should be willing to learn, which hopefully would have penetrated my younger thick skull.

Mike’s examples are clear and concise, truthful while still keeping everyone’s privacy appropriately, and constructive. Also, he’s funny.

Talking to teens about sex is a lot like talking to designers about contracts. “We’re being careful. We’re in love. We trust each other. They have an agile process. He promised there wouldn’t be any backend development.

More than anything else, what Mike brings to this book is his desire to see you succeed as a designer, whether you’re working inside a big corporation or as a consultant or at an agency or on your own. He emphasizes treating our peers in the industry with respect, so that we can all raise the quality of design in the industry and, presumably succeed even more.

If you are any kind of designer, content strategist, product manager, or even engineer, read this book. You’ll find ways to improve your working relationships with others as well as ways to produce and execute better ideas, wherever you are.