Finding and embracing our expertise

Featured Image
4 min read

NIBBLES! is a monthly round-table discussion, hosted by one of the 3800 team, delivered to each other. No subject is off the menu. We’ll dive in, swim around a bit and share any interesting insights with you lot.

Work that resonates and inspires tends to come from those who have mastered what they are trying to say. Within design, this could be an individual or group who produces work that questions or develops ways of thinking.

An expert I admire is Benjamin Hubert, founder of Layer Design Studio in London. As an expert in creating products and experiences that challenge the status quo in interesting ways, he has created a studio that is world renowned for the quality of it’s output.

His career exemplifies the modality of deliberate practice. Starting at established design consultancies Seymourpowell and Tangerine, Hubert became frustrated with repeating established design norms.

In response, he left this stagnation to try and establish his own way of answering design briefs. Living in London, with just £2000 in the bank, he started out on his own. This freedom allowed him to try, and fail. He developed into the expert he wanted to be.

Experts exemplify the best of their craft. They understand their field so well, that they can question and improve upon what has come before. 

To become an expert, you have to find time to practice your craft and be comfortable with getting things wrong.

Yet I have always struggled with the fear of failure.

As a designer, this can be pretty difficult at times. It can very much stifle our ability to be agile in our creative thinking, constantly retreading ground rather than moving forward when something doesn’t work. Some would say this is simply a symptom of caring a lot about work, but true experts push through.

Perfecting practice

The adage, “practice makes perfect” is not always true. Not all practice is created equally. Practice is often mistakenly seen as reviewing and perfecting things you already know how to do. Deliberate practice however focuses on consistently trying things you do not know how to do.

By pushing yourself beyond your current capabilities to develop strengths in new areas, you turn what you already know into intuition, thinking less about it the more you do it. This is the critical element people see as expertise.

At 3800, we use our different backgrounds and very different skill sets to learn from each other. We use our expertise efficiently to help our clients whilst creating an environment of collaboration and true experimentation. 

Creating room to learn

We all acknowledge that there are many skills we want to hone and improve, something that can be quite difficult when it isn’t part of a specific design brief set up for a client. I therefore set a challenge for the team to take part in, in order to develop a skill we wanted to master.

For 100 days, we are committing daily time to an activity. Simple in essence, but certainly more difficult to execute than you might expect.

My challenge is to complete a sketch a day, to fine tune my skills and hopefully make a habit of engaging in sketching as something I enjoy. I will vary my approach in order to try new methods and styles of sketching I haven’t tried before.

Sketching, for me, is an integral part of the design process. It helps communicate what’s in your head in a way words can’t. It’s also something I’ve prided myself in being ‘good’ at, but never quite an ‘expert’.

After a short time committing to this daily practice (30+ days in) I can not only see myself improving, but I’m also enjoying the process of learning from my mistakes. We will have to see if this brings me up to a level I consider expert. 

Sharing the journey

Experts don’t shy away from sharing what they know and how they came to know it. Being humble about mistakes, sharing wins whilst learning from both is essential.

That’s why I have created Notice ( This will be my online scrapbook, as well as a destination for everything that I enjoy about design.

Somewhere I can share my experiments, successes, thoughts and failures. I want to encourage myself and others to “kill the perfectionist” and enjoy the journey. 

Featured Image
We are recording a series of interviews with the 3800 team and our friends to share who we are, why we gather around the same table, and what our work means to us. In …
Featured Image
I’m one of the fortunate folk who remember the beginnings of the Internet, but didn’t grow up with it being an integral part of our childhood. Yes we’d spend a couple of hours on …
Featured Image
We are recording a series of interviews with the 3800 team and our friends to share who we are, why we gather around the same table, and what our work means to us. In …

Where next?