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You are a DESIGNer, not an ARTist

The Data Handbook

How to use data to improve your customer journey and get better business outcomes in digital sales. Interviews, use cases, and deep-dives.

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Author avatar

Juuli Kiiskinen




For years I struggled with my identity as a designer. Until I had what one could label even as an epiphany: Design is not Art.

Art is about expressing yourself, your feelings and emotions. You.

Design is making something more functional or appealing for the sake of “higher purpose”. In business, the higher purpose means money. Surely, one can say that the higher purpose is to make clients happier, but why do we want that? Happier clients means more money.

This mindset is usually hard for designers to understand – and for a good reason! All of us have taken our first steps towards a career in design when we held that Crayon in our hands for the first time. For many of us drawing, molding clay or creating something else visual has been the most important way of expressing ourselves.

But think about it: there's a huge gap between “something that is born out of me, for the sake of self expression" and “something that is born out of data, for the sake of business”.

As the great lettering artist Dina Rodriguez said:

”If you’re doing work for yourself, it’s art. If you’re being paid to do it for someone else, it’s design.”

After coming into terms with this, I’ve felt great relief. I used to feel a lot of pain when someone questioned my design. It felt like an attack towards me as a person, an artist. “How can she say that? I’ve put my heart and soul into this!”

I don’t feel like that anymore after realising:

1. The design shouldn’t be about me or my heart or my soul in the first place

2. In the end it doesn’t matter how I or someone else feels about the design – only data driven (analytics, tests & user studies) insights should count

So if you have a gut feeling, an intuition, be prepared to test it. Give your darling design some real-life exposure. I promise you, the first time data whoops the ass of your design is the most 50 Shades of Grey -moment you can imagine – it hurts like hell, but feels oh so good at the same time. You cannot blame the data for not understanding your design. You cannot tell the data what were your ideas and thoughts behind the design. You cannot explain.

And that is the thing that sets you free – you don’t have to.

The only thing you have to do is suck it up, study what are the parts that need to be changed and try again.

Fail fast, design better.


Ps. I still believe that everyone, not only designers, should also practice art. Doing stuff that has no goals except self expression – whether it’s writing, dancing or baking – is a great source of relaxation and creativeness. That is one of the reasons, why we have a very popular Calligraphy Club at Columbia Road.

In the end there's more to life than money, even in business.


Pps. We're looking for nice people with a 'get shit done' attitude to join our team at Columbia Road! Take a new leap in your career, we have open positions in all business areas. Send a message, call us, visit us — we'd be thrilled to hear from you!


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The Data Handbook

How to use data to improve your customer journey and get better business outcomes in digital sales. Interviews, use cases, and deep-dives.

Get the book