Beware the Shadow You Cast

A mentor once told me to beware the shadow you cast. When you’re in a position of influence–whether owing to your status within an organization or a bit of crucial expertise–you have to be incredibly mindful of your interactions. Your response and tone (frustration, joy, confidence) take on a heightened meaning when you’re the person others are looking to.

I was reminded of this phrase as I read the excellent article The User Experience of Creative Sprints. It opens with an image not uncommon to UX articles: an open notebook of beautifully sketched lists and diagrams.


The most frequently-asked question on the UX forums I visit is some variation on “How do I get started in UX?”. User Experience is seen as a charmed circle–an exclusive, hard-to-break-into group–and images like this furthers that belief. It says: “If you can’t sit down and jot out a workflow and list of key themes in beautiful penmenship and accent shadows, you are not cut out for UX.”

Clearly that wasn’t the intent of the image (in fact, it’s an artifact from a creative sprint, totally appropriate for this article). In many ways, though, that’s the point of recognizing your influence. Those of us that count ourselves as “UX Professionals” need to be exceedingly cautious with how we portray our field.

User Experience is one of process, taking steps forward, backward and to the side as we explore the solution. Obviously ideas don’t spring forth fully-formed, ready to implement.

We need to be sure the shadow we cast respects that process.

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