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Making SMART Goals for Designers

Goal setting is a way we map out achievement and track our progress. I’ve learned from many failed goals that the process of making goals requires skill that we rarely process naturally. One method that I have started using at IBM and Austin Community College is creating SMART goals. What does SMART mean?

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time bound

If you’re interested in reading more about this, check out this Wikipedia page.

giphy smart goals for designers

Why make SMART goals?

The tech industry puts a lot of emphasis on growth. As the industry changes, our skill set must keep up to remain relevant. Creating SMART goals help remind us where we need to improve as designers and as subject matter experts (SME’s) with our specific work. Since creating SMART goals this year, I have a clearer picture and control over how I can improve with my day-to-day work for the company, my overall skill set as a designer, and my value as a design leader.

Making SMART goals

I like to think of SMART goals in sets of four. Three goals are for this year. One goal is ongoing. It can be a bit of a stretch. In the set, each has a purpose to help me improve something specific for the sake of my company, my own abilities or the design community.

giphy making smart goals and getting shit done

Here is a sample SMART goal I made earlier this year for helping contribute to the greater design community.

I will do three talks on design in 2016. Two talks to the community in Austin, TX. One talk will be to a community outside of Austin, TX.

I started with something that I wanted to improve on (i.e. I want to do more design talks). The next step is to refine statements with the SMART framework.

S – Specific: I will do three talks. Two in Austin and one outside.
M – Measureable: Three talks. I can measure them upon completion.
A – Attainable: I have done design talks before, but they were previously all in Austin. It is not a stretch to think that I will do a talk outside of my usual community.
R – Relevant: Talking to peers about design is a great way to get my ideas out to a larger audience and grow my network.
T – Time bound: I can accomplish this goal in 2016.

Reflecting on SMART goals

I completed this goal in March of 2016. Two talks in Austin for AIGA and AMA. One talk for Umass Amherst.

This year has helped build my awareness of where I am in my career and how I can increase my value. I was able to complete this goal three months into this year. I can reflect on how easy or difficult it was for me to complete this goal. Now, I can start thinking if this is an area where I want to continue to improve. If so, then what areas should I work on?

In your interested in other activities or workshops, check out my post on getting better feedback.



Matt Eng

UX Research Team Lead at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.

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