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  • Kaity Meade

How adopting a rescue dog helped me become a better designer

On this day one year ago, I adopted my sweet pup, Archie. He has brought so much joy and light into my world, especially during a year where everything seemed so dark.


Being a pet owner to a rescue dog has taught me so many valuable lessons. This experience has truly helped me grow not only as a person but as a UX designer as well. It might sound like I'm reaching here with this connection, but let me explain.


Here are ways that adopting Archie has helped me become a better UX designer.

 

1. Empathy

If you are going to adopt a rescue dog, you have to be mentally prepared that you could be welcoming a dog into your life that has experienced abuse and neglect. When I adopted Archie, the shelter knew little of his past, but they did know that he was nervous and temperamental around men. Just from knowing this, I ensured that anytime Archie was meeting a male for the first time, we took the introduction slow to avoid intimidating or scaring him. A year later, Archie is a ham around almost anyone he meets, men included. Taking his socialization slow and at his own pace warmed him up to meeting other people. Now I have a hard time holding him back from excitedly walking up to strangers!


As UX designers, we are responsible for understanding our users. We have to know what their needs, goals, frustrations, and motivations are. With this knowledge, we can represent them to stakeholders and other team members to ensure that everyone is aware of who we are designing for and why. We are problem solvers, and just like I had to understand Archie's needs, frustrations, and motivations to help him be the happiest dog he could be, designers have to understand their users to create an enjoyable end experience tailored for them.


2. Communication

Training is so important when adding a dog to your family. It builds trust, discipline, and improves the owner-pet relationship. Before you can effectively train your dog, you have to understand what type of communication method they respond best to. Do they respond to a more stern voice? How do you effectively and humanely change your dog's behavior after they have done something they shouldn't have?


Not only do you have to understand how you can communicate to your dog, but you have to understand how they communicate to you. What is their body language telling you? What are they trying to express from their behavior? Communication, especially with a rescue dog, comes from both parties and having that mutual connection can dramatically improve the overall relationship.


Communicating as a UX designer is crucial. Whether you're presenting your design and explaining your decisions with clients, explaining the product or service to users, or representing your user to the team and other stakeholders, storytelling in design is one of the most important skills to have. Storytelling has become a big focus of mine since beginning my design journey. To get some more insights on the importance of storytelling in design, check out this past blog post.


3. Strategy

If you're going to adopt a dog, you have to have a plan. How are you going to prepare your home and other members of your home for the arrival of your new family member? What is your plan on training your pup? How are you going to get them acquainted and comfortable in this new environment? There is so much strategizing and planning when it comes to adopting a pet.


Design strategy can make or break a project. Every design project you work on will need to have a tailored strategy and process to meet the end goal. Mapping out your design plan and understanding the intentions of each step in the process can set yourself up for a successful end product.


4. Accepting failure

Being a pet owner is hard, especially if you're adopting a rescue that has experienced a difficult past. No matter how ready you might feel, you have to be prepared that you are going to experience failures, whether it's with your training progress or communication skills. You and your pet are learning along the way, and both of you are bound to make mistakes during this relationship.


As designers, we can strive with failures. As difficult as it is to accept at times, we are constantly improving our product, service, and ourselves from failed experiences. Whether you're experiencing these failures from job rejections, usability tests, or design presentations to clients, the most important thing is to take that failed attempt and use it to improve your next endeavor. This brings me to my last point.

5. Learning from your mistakes

As I mentioned, you are bound to mess up when you become a pet owner. The most important thing is to learn from those mistakes and continue improving yourself as an owner.

Whether you're working on yourself as a designer or trying to improve a product or service, embracing your mistakes and using them to improve yourself and your work is powerful. Were you rejected from a company after an interview? Get feedback from the hiring manager and use that to improve your next interview. Experiencing problems with your product or service? Test them on real users and gather insights from the people who will be using your product or service. You can always grow from your experiences, whether they result in success or failure.

 

Bringing Archie into my world has been such a blessing. Reflecting on this past year has made me realize how much he has helped me grow as an owner, a person, and a designer.


Shout out to the local neighborhood shelter near me that brought this good boy into my life - Felines and Canines, you rock my world! If you live in the Chicago area and are considering adopting a pet, I 110% recommend adopting through Felines & Canines!


- Kaity



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