What Are You Working On?

One of my favorite questions to ask of designers is “what are you working on?” This is more specific than the more usual “what do you do” — which often leads to dry, rehearsed answers — but broad enough so they don’t feel they need to betray confidences.

Most folks answer with a high-level take on what they do. For example, a person could say she’s working on a healthcare app. Some get a bit more specific; for example, the person could say she’s working on a medical app to help cancer patients monitor their treatment.

The types of answers I get vary depending on whether the designer works independently or as part of a team in an organization. Freelancers and consultants move from project to project, so they tend to have a shorter sense of what “now” means; whereas internal designers are usually part of longer-term efforts.

Another distinction is in the degree to which the person thinks about his or her work as being transformational. The ones who’ve found a way to connect their work with their values are often more enthusiastic, and tend to have a higher-level take on the work. For example, the person could say she’s relieving suffering in cancer patients. (This level of engagement is what I aspire to.)

What about you? What are you working on?