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20 Skills Design Software Won't Ever Replace

Laura Busche April 9, 2024 · 5 min read

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 because of the creation of 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.

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.


2. Empathy

Designers create for humans – both clients and their customers. Thus, a designer’s unique ability to empathize is the key to truly respond to human needs and wants.


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.


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 to suit them.


5. Creativity

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


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.


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.


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.


9. Discernment

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


10. Judgment

Human designers must read situations, including 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.


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.


12. Persuasion

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


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.


14. Passion

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


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 out of-the-box, and come up with unique ideas that disrupt paradigms.


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.


17. Negotiation

Design is multi-faceted, and something that goes with both its business and creative sides is negotiating. 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 parts when they have to compromise their initial positions.


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.


19. Leadership

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


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.


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

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About the Author
Laura Busche

Brand strategist. Creating design tools to empower creative entrepreneurs. Author of the Lean Branding book. MA in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

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