You're a designer. You want to work on the cool stuff. You want to design the logo that everyone will recognize. The app interface that millions of people will touch. You want to do the work that is seen, recognized and applauded.
This is how most designers feel as they begin their career. Our hopes and expectations are high. We're convinced we deserve these opportunities. We're designers! The world needs our creative vision!
I know because I felt that way too. But I eventually learned what's even more exciting than the big projects and adoring audiences. It's what I like to (very creatively) call Boring Design.
Boring design is focusing on the things that aren't seen or immediately appreciated, but can have an equal or even greater impact as "the cool stuff."
A friend of mine used to say, "Design the best Terms & Conditions page the world has ever seen." Meaning: Take a seemingly boring opportunity and turn it into a great one.
By doing so, you may in fact end up designing an award-winning Terms & Conditions page. One that reinvents the way we look at Terms & Conditions (usually a neglected page with walls of text nobody wants to read). One that's celebrated for years to come. And even if you're not changing the game, you will at the very least sleep well at night, because you as the designer gave it your very best. It's a mark of character and professionalism to apply your skills and love for detail across the board, seen or unseen.
Steve Jobs was famous for wanting to make the Apple computer look as beautifully designed on inside as on the outside. He could have gotten away with leaving it as it is. Why put in the time, effort, attention and money into designing something no one will ever see? But somehow, he couldn't let it go. It was his dedication and attention to detail that defined Apple from the beginning.
Boring design is obsessing over a "I forgot my password" recovery flow, making it easier, better and more delightful than ever. No one asked for it. But once you've experienced a better solution, you'll find everything else weirdly outdated.
Boring design is designing a beautiful invoice to send to your clients. You could send them a standard one; they're paying you regardless of how that invoice looks. But you do it anyway. You want to make them feel GOOD about paying your invoice every time they see it. You want your client's accountant to rave about your invoice behind your back. "This is the most beautiful invoice I've ever seen."
Boring design, in reality, is just design. It's just not the flashy kind. It might not be the kind that earns you standing ovations or followers online. But to me, it is as equally important as everything else. It's a matter of pride.