I recently sent an email to some peers at my fellowship about “Design Resources” which got some positive responses. I decided to expand on those thoughts and thus this blog post was born. Hope you find it handy and if you are a professional designer, please help me correct my inevitable inaccuracies.
Everyone does design work, so let’s get better at it
I’m not a designer. I have no formal training in art or design and I have not worked in the design space professionally.
And yet. I have designed. I have designed posters, presentations, websites, marketing collateral, business cards, spreadsheets, blog posts and more.
If you have ever participated in the creation of something that humans would use, read, or otherwise interact with, then you have done design work. In a sense, we are all amateur designers. In a perfect world, we could have professional design resources on hand when producing something important. In practice, that’s often not possible. So it behooves us to learn a bit more about how to design well.
As a non-des- I mean amateur designer - I’m either the worst person, or the best person to be writing an article about helping other amateur designers improve their craft. For what it’s worth, I’ve been told that my work is well-designed “for a non-designer” and I’ve learned tons from designers I’ve worked with like Suelyn Yu, Randy Pang, Al Abut, Seth Warrick, Garry Tan and David Merkoski.
But anyway, it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want. Let’s do it!
Above All Else, Remember Your Audience and Your Purpose
Who is your user/audience and what do you want them to do?
This is the most important question you can ask when designing something. Products are meant to be useful and design enhances it’s usefulness in some way.
- A resume should highlight your strongest achievements for that specific recruiter and encourage them to contact you for an interview.
- A targeted landing page for a invoicing software should convince freelance programmers to dive into a case study about the product or try a 30 free trial.
- A photo sharing app should to help new parents easily and delightfully share photos of their kids with the entire family.
Keeping your purpose in mind allows you to not get bogged down in “what color should this button be” and more about “what will get this set of people to have a particular experience”.
Some general things to keep in mind when designing most anything.
Focus / Simplicity
Our brains are easily distracted. Sometimes design is used to overwhelm and overstimulate, but I believe the best design is focused. Don’t try to do too much on any one slide, page or even sentence. Keep it simple and it’ll be a lot hard to f*** things up.
Have you ever read an old book where the font is small and the text is really tight? It’s the worst. White space is about creating open space between elements on a page/screen.
Giving elements a lot of white space is good because 1) it forces you to make decisions about what you want to FOCUS on, as per the earlier point and 2) it gives each element “breathing room” to live and establish itself.