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20 Skills Design Software Won't Ever Replace

This post was originally published on Creative Market, the world’s marketplace for ready-to-use design assets.

Being a designer in a technological world can be intimidating, since nearly every day a new piece of software is being built that can do much of what you do by hand. However, if you’re a designer, there’s no reason to throw in the towel just because of some fancy new software. In reality, there are some very important human skills great designers have that software never will, no matter how advanced developers get.

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Row 1: Anna Hurley for Asana, Olenka Malarecka.

1. Intuition

Intuition, the insight to know when to expand or scrap an idea, is one of a designer’s most important and mysterious skills. That gut feeling when designing is often the thing that results in the most cohesive and creative products.

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition we discover.” — Henri Poincare

2. Empathy

Designers create for humans — both clients and their customers. A designer’s unique ability to empathize is the key to responding and designing solutions that meet human needs and wants.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt

3. Taste

Like intuition, taste is enigmatic. However, it allows each human designer to discern what works and what doesn’t in a particular design project. Many clients decide to hire a particular creative professional because of his/her taste and aesthetic.

“Love of beauty is taste, the creation of beauty is art.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Listening

Unlike software, designers have the genuine ability to listen, hear out a client’s needs, toss questions back and forth, and create products that suit them.

“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” — Alan Alda

5. Creativity

Creativity is what makes a design unique. Software programs do not have the ability to dream, brainstorm, and devise original ideas without human input.

“Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.” — Brene Brown

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bright ideas 💡

by Anya Perepelkina

this shade of yellow is hands down my favorite color at the moment 💛 this illustration is available on freepik!

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6. Imagination

Imagination and creativity work together and are inherently human. Imagination is the ability to conjure and envision what a design should look like, outside of established patterns or algorithms.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” — Albert Einstein

7. Improvisation

Sometimes, designs just aren’t working. Unlike software, which is programmed, human designers can find creative ways to overcome problems — even if they must use unorthodox methods.

“Never play a thing the same way twice.” — Louis Armstrong

8. Emotional Intelligence

Much like empathy, emotional intelligence is crucial for anyone dealing with clients. Our ability to handle interpersonal relationships ensures that we can collaborate with clients and deliver something that meets their needs.

“Emotional intelligence isn’t the triumph of heart over head, it’s the unique intersection of both.” — David Caruso

9. Discernment

Designers are constantly making decisions. The key to decision making is discernment, which requires the ability to judge a situation and make the best call for it.

“We need discernment in what we see, and what we hear, and what we believe.” — Charles R. Swindoll

10. Judgment

Human designers must read situations (like interactions with clients), and respond accordingly. In contrast, software is simply prompted to respond with a predesigned set of answers. Sometimes a client will start out a project by asking you to critique an existing piece. In this case, having a strong sense of judgment can position your expertise in front of those who need it most.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” — Will Rogers

Meeting chair character colleague meeting office people work


by Niniwanted | Jenny Lelong

Illustrations for a real estate project.

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11. Collaboration

Collaboration is a key part of the design process. Humans have the ability to listen, understand, and reciprocate with others. Unlike software, we also have the ability to transgress hierarchy whenever necessary. Even if someone’s voice should technically have more relevance to the conversation, human beings are capable of switching power positions in many types of contexts — including the creative process.

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.” — Mother Teresa

12. Persuasion

Sometimes, clients need to be convinced about going forward with a project. Unlike humans, software packages that simply perform rote tasks don’t have the ability to effectively persuade by appealing to a person’s emotions.

“If you wish to win a man over to your ideas, first make him your friend.” — Abraham Lincoln

13. Imperfection

Fantastic design directions can arise from mistakes. However, programmed software rarely leaves space for errors, and therefore, does not allow for the incredible solutions that come from having to resourcefully overcome mistakes.

“Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without.” — Confucius

14. Passion

Most designers love what they do, and that passion shows through in their work. We would love to see someone try to code human passion into a software package!

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” — Oprah Winfrey

15. Divergence

Software can find C when A and B are present. But what happens when you need C, and you don’t know how to get it? That’s when a designer comes in — someone with the ability to think outside the box, and come up with unique ideas that disrupt paradigms.

“Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting.” — Robert Lee Frost

16. Risk-taking

Designers must take risks in order to innovate. Products will simply resemble each other or remain stagnant if none are taken. Software does not have the ability to reach beyond a certain capacity. At least not without human input.

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for ordinary.” — Jim Rohn

17. Negotiation

Design is multi-faceted, and something that goes with both its business and creative sides, is negotiation. People must negotiate the little details of design deals, as well as creative aspects. Meeting clients at a middle ground in terms of pricing requires deep knowledge of your own financial situation, their ability to pay, and the actual costs involved in your work. While software can process seemingly infinite amounts of variables, it lacks the negotiation skills to reach favorable agreements for both parties.

“Negotiation is a point of interaction of common interests.” — Sukant Ratnakar

18. Perception

One of the most incredible human abilities is the ability to perceive: to take in the world, process, and digest what is seen. This ability to essential to creating a design that is fitting for a client’s wants, and also reflective of a rich creative knowledge.

“The voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust

19. Leadership

Since design is collaborative, there must be a leader on a project to ensure it’s both cohesive and (ultimately) completed. Designers lead, ensure parties communicate, and produce something that reflects one streamlined vision.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John Maxwell

20. Critical Thinking

Designing is not purely creative, but also requires critical thought. Humans have the ability to design with a slew of other important factors in mind informing that design, something a coded piece of software simply can’t.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” — Henri Bergson

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Illustration Revision

by Rogie

More tweaks. Trying to nail a style here.

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While design software can be incredibly helpful and sometimes even better than us at certain tasks, there’s no need to fear it. In reality, a human designer’s skill-set makes him/her an irreplaceable piece of the design process puzzle.

Laura Busche About the author: Laura Busche is the author of the Lean Branding book. Her approach to branding is blended, combining insights from an undergraduate degree in business, master’s degree in design management, and Ph.D. in consumer psychology. Laura is a Brand Content Strategist at Creative Market.

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