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Becoming a Better Designer

By Wouter de Bres


Here I will post all articles that helped me to become a better designer. Feel free to suggest articles @wdeb

Wouter de Bres — Designer • Co-founder Gibbon • Psychologist

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Let's start this learning flow with the lesson that it doesn't make you a better designer to act, dress and talk like the stereotype designer. Just do great work and care about your users.

1 That Turtleneck is Choking You

Wolfgang Weingart said "Electronic equipment replaces neither Eyes, Hands, nor Heart." One might also say, "Turtlenecks replace neither Eyes, Hands, nor Heart." You're spending too much time figuring out how to look like a designer, make work like a designer, and talk like a designer.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Go for "Of Course" instead of "wow".

2 "Of Course" Design

When people try to design magical interfaces, they’re often aspiring for the “wow” moment, but that’s the wrong focus. Designers should instead be focusing on “of course” moments, as in “of course it works like that.” Most product design should be so obvious it elicits no response.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Simplify your interface and don't be scared to make it boring. Boringly simple.

3 Dare to be Boring

Fundamentals Graphic design underwent certain mutations as it bled into the digital mediums we associate it with today. However, if you look back a few decades, it's clear that print design had already explored the extremes of ultra-minimal, symbolic design. This Pan Am print work is a great example of large semantic distance.

4 So you think you're not good enough?

Are you one of the people who are afraid of showing their work to others? Is everything constantly not good enough? Nobody would ever think about hiring you, because everyone else is a lot better than you are? Wait, somebody hired you? They sure must have made a mistake, you think?

5 The Grumpy Designer Syndrome

Yes, I have it. I realize it every time when we are about to launch something new. I look at my own design and Instead of being proud that we came this far and that we pushed forward to launch fast, I feel terrible, gutted even, that the design I created is just not good enough.

6 How we design at Intercom

"...great designers are dogged in understanding the problem they are dealing with. Their curiosity and tenacity for understanding doesn't end..." Here within the product team at Intercom we've been sharing a fantastic post by Mills Baker about the state of design within the technology industry.

7 Joshua Sortino - 14 Things Learned Designing at Disqus

A few weeks ago I worked my last day at Disqus, the number one commenting system on the internet. My time with the company was the most exciting and educational two years of my career. I never thought it was possible to learn so much about something so seemingly simple as comments.

9 Making Good Design Decisions

There's a popular misconception that NASA spent millions in a failed attempt to create a space pen while the Russians just used pencils. The implication is that good design is simple in the sense that it is simplistic or obvious. Simple design is often simple for the user but complicated for the creator.

10 Letter to a Junior Designer

I admit it: you intimidate me. Your work is vivid and imaginative, far superior to my woeful scratchings at a similar age. The things I struggle to learn barely make you sweat. One day, you'll be a better designer than me.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “1. Start with why. 2. Build less. 3. Perfection is the wrong goal.

11 Thoughts on product design processes

In a startup, your product is everything. It is why you start your endeavor. It defines your culture, the way you work and it builds your brand — especially in the early days. You hire people based on your product vision and you find costumers that understand why they need your product and pay you money for using it.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Sometimes a design problem requires brave decisions. Don't be scared of trying a completely new approach to solve it.

12 Great Design is Brave Design

As designers we endeavor to improve how things work, look and feel; this is achieved by examining how things are and imagining how they may be. It can be argued that all design is inherently concerned with change, which in turn is brought about by making decisions.

13 The 6 Pillars of Steve Jobs' Design Philosophy

The 6 Pillars of Steve Jobs' Design Philosophy This post was written by Scrivs. Hall Monitor of Drawar. In Walter Isaacson's biography, Steve Jobs, we learn that over the course of his life there were some events that helped shaped Jobs' design philosophy.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “You know that feeling after shipping a project that you're not happy with what you designed? That feeling you could have done better... well...don't do that. Be proud of your work and make it better next time.

14 Project Hangovers and Self-Criticism

Sometimes-more nearly like every time-after finishing a project, I hate it. I want nothing to do with it. I see it in all of the flaws, errors, imperfects. All the ideas that didn't transpire the way I wanted them to show up; the... | Sarah Peck | People, Cities, Systems: How do they work?

15 The trinity of product design

Yesterday, I watched as a friend of mine created an Expensify account for his startup. He was trying the product for the first time. I took notes without saying much. The experience reminded me of the hours I spent in Google's usability labs watching people use our AdSense Demographic Targeting beta product.

16 Becoming a Better Designer, Away from the Screen

The startup world can be a bubble. Most of my daily reading consists of articles posted on Hacker News or Designer News; I sometimes go an entire week without reading something unrelated to the startup scene. The ongoing exchange of knowledge is incredible, but it can also foster an Echo Chamber mentality.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Jake Przespo is one of my favorite designers. In this interview he gives some great answers that we can learn from.

17 Jake Przespo

You're reading Sweat the Product . Collections of untold stories from entrepreneurs and product people. Product Designer Jake Przespo is a twenty-six year old Product Designer living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He now works at a small product studio after having worked at Skillshare for two years as their first employee.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Don't be a design dick. Help young designers get better.

19 Educate, don't humiliate

Remember your first website, it was probably pretty shitty right? I know mine was. The web was a completely new canvas to me, up till the age of 17 I was more comfortable with a pencil and a sketchbook than a computer. I started on the web pretty late (by todays average).

20 Pass it on

I studied with a great set designer in college who would end each lesson with “Remember the rule of thumb in theater: Pass it on.”.

21 Stay sharp. Be Inspired. Stay Hungry.

I'd like to start this post by saying that I'm expressing my personal viewpoint, and not how I think everyone should handle their career. Everyone's welcome to their own views. I've noticed something as I progress through my career. We all hit walls, but how we overcome these obstacles is what seperates us.

22 The Design Process: A Pyramid

Almost two years ago, I got to sit down with Ryan Germick, the lead of the Google Doodle team. When I asked how his team kept shipping such great designs consistently, Ryan asked for my notebook, and drew a pyramid. He divided it into five layers, and he told me: First, start with the Mission, the Soul, the 'Why?'

23 Unicorn, Shmunicorn - Be a Pegasus

If you're reading this, you're probably a designer. Maybe you code, maybe you don't. But it's likely you're feeling more and more pressure to hone your programming skills and become that mythical product development creature who can both create compelling designs and write production code.

24 Fragments of the Ideal

A good designer is not merely a an adept problem solver or an experienced decorator - a good designer is a thinker, an idealist, a Romantic. The work of a good designer is not a plain answer to the forces of necessity, it is a fragment of an ideal world, a world of his own conception.

25 Wilson Miner - When We Build

We shape our tools and our tools shape us." As more of the tools we live with every day become digital instead of physical, our opportunity - and responsibility - as designers is multiplying. We live in a world of screens, and we are the ones who decide what goes on them.

26 A Plea: Design With Conviction, Or Don't Design At All

While driving the other day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and turn on my parents' Spotify, i.e., the radio, only to hear Madonna's voice emerge, treading ever so subtly on the lyrics of her 2008 "Give It 2 Me": "Got no boundaries and no limits.

27 The Secret to Designing the Right Product

Oh, you are building a product? Guess what, I know something about you! You have a ton of ideas on what to do with your product. How to improve it, what to change, what it could eventually look like. You literally have millions of ideas. Don't worry though, this is normal.

28 Emotional Design with A.C.T. - Part 1

Defining Emotion, Personality and Relationship As UX professionals, we strive to design engaging experiences. These experiences help to forge relationships between the products we create and the people who use them. Whether you're designing a website or a physical product, the formation of a relationship depends on how useful, usable and pleasurable the experience is.

29 Emotional Design with A.C.T. - Part 2

Designing Emotion, Personality and Relationship Back in Part 1, we looked at how the emotions expressed by people and products communicate personality traits over time. We also learned that customers are attracted to things that have an aesthetic personality that's similar to their own, but they prefer products that take on a complementary role during interaction.

30 Creative People Say No

A Hungarian psychology professor once wrote to famous creators asking them to be interviewed for a book he was writing. One of the most interesting things about his project was how many people said "no."

Added by Wouter de Bres: “You should learn how to tell the story of the work you have done.

31 How To Build A World-Class Design Portfolio

I've reviewed thousands of designer portfolios over the past 10 years as a former design lead at Facebook and now as the cofounder of the investing and mentoring network Designer Fund. Beautiful shots of your work might've carried you into an interview years ago, but today, design managers at top startups are looking for more.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “This man is a legend. We can learn a lot from him.

32 Paul Rand on Design

by anthony on 04/12/10 at 10:37 pm Paul Rand is one of the greatest graphic designers that ever lived. The quality of his work was not only stunning, but it was deep in meaning. He is widely known for designing the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and many more.

33 10 facts about the brain that will help you design better websites

Psychology provides a framework for understanding how your users think. Joe Leech explains how to use that knowledge to improve your websites. It all started with a book I found on my mum's bookshelf when I was 15. It was called How To Read People Like A Book.

34 Should Tech Designers Go With Their Guts - Or the Data?

For many tech companies, design is no longer subjective. Instead, it's all about the data. Analytics click and hum behind the scenes, measuring the effectiveness of even the tiniest design decisions. This constant data-stream plays an increasing role in determining what new products we will use and what forms they might take.

35 Why Your UX Designer Won't Be the Next Steve Jobs

Your UX designer won't be the next Steve Jobs. You might be wondering why I would say this. After all, UX designers devote their lives to improving and perfecting the user experience, spending countless hours exploring, anticipating and advocating for users' needs in everything from product design to web usability.

36 Design Process is a Myth

Typically, when a product design falls flat, people want to insert a design process to fix the bad design. However, much like the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant, a one-size-fits-all design process does not exist. Don't force a process on a design team that everyone must follow.

37 Inspiration is for amateurs

"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.

38 Learning to See

Learning to design is learning to see, an adventure that gets more and more captivating the further you go. A love letter to my profession…. Our mind is not a camera. Seeing is not a passive act. We see what we expect to see, or, as Anaïs Nin put it so beautifully: “We don’t see things as they are, we ...

39 Opinions in Design

Current state of my mind: I was half way to bed when I read this answer from Louie Mantia on the "working at Square" thread on Quora. I could simply not stop myself from writing this for the basic reason that this is important. Really important to me personally.

40 Get better

Profanity warning: I don't normally swear this much. Fuck convention. Young designers and those new to the game; I'm going to let you in on a secret. Maybe a few secrets. The sort of things that you find out by yourself through long and painful processes, and endless, horrible clients.

41 Designing the Whole

When you first launch a product, pretty much every feature you add is (or at least should be) key to achieving your larger vision. You add new modules, pages, sections, overlays and form fields to strengthen and shore up your initial MVP. And, by and large, most of those additions stick. Your users are happy that the beta product they ...

42 Become a better designer

When I decided to get serious in UI/UX design a few years back, I asked myself "How can I become a better designer?". So I sat down and wrote a list of things that I should be working on everyday in order for me to continuously evolve my skills.

43 Feedback Doesn't Mean Failure

As UXers, we receive alot of feedback. This can include feedback on our processes, our deliverables or even our approach. Our profession is seen as interesting and fun everyone seems to want to be a part of it. The UX Athlete From designing plays to designing experiences...

44 Your first interface attempt always sucks.

We are currently working on a new project called Gibbon and we are still in the phase of finding out what this thing is really about. While I was creating some mockups for our pitch deck ( view dribbble shots) it struck me; the first interface attempt always sucks.

45 MVD - Advocating for Minimal Viable Design

I have been a designer for over 10 years, from the manic deconstructed David Carson days, to the reverential Pentagram days to today's Dribbble-y Facebook design superstars. I've loved looking and aspirating to it all; I even wax nostalgic about those early print days when we had to spend hours printing out version after version of stationary to make sure ...

46 Why you should move that button 3px to the left

When a product is close to launch, I become a perfectionist. Each misaligned element or awkward interaction is like a thorn in my side. There'll be a dozen tiny implementation mistakes that taunt me each time I run into them. Everything seems so broken. But to everyone else on the team, the product seems fine!

48 Being self-taught with passion

Almost everyday I receive at least 1 email asking; How I became self-taught designer? If I can recommend any book, course? If I have any advise? Rather than keep replying those emails individually, I wanted to write this short post. I will be talking about design, but the things you will be reading can be applied to pretty much everything.

49 The Politics of Design

It is no secret that the real world in which the designer functions is not the world of art, but the world of buying and selling. For sales, and not design are the raison d'etre of any business organization.

51 Design: why we fail so often, and what we can do about it

Braden Kowitz is a designer, storyteller, and product development geek. He's also a Design Partner at Google Ventures and founded the team's Design Studio. He advises startups on UX Design and Product Development. Before joining Google Ventures, Braden led design for several Google Products, including Gmail, Google Buzz, Google Apps for Business, Google Spreadsheets, OpenSocial, and Google Trends.

52 The better Designer gives in, not up.

Designers are arrogant. So most people tend to think. Designers are narrow-minded if it comes in challenging their designs. They hate feedback. They do everything in their power not to do the changes they are asked to do. They keep on defending their own ideas. They won't give in.

53 Creativity

The obsession with finding that elusive creature called "creativity", with tips and tricks to boost creativity and rituals that promise to make one more creative, is a reaction to a growing, gnawing hole in our hearts. It's an attempt to patch up that hole, a blind effort to alleviate the symptoms without healing the root cause.

54 Quality vs. Speed - the death of the designer

Are designers focusing too much on perfection? Are they becoming the bottleneck? Are they preventing valuable customer feedback? Are their ego's too big to recognise it? As a designer with over 15 years of professional experience I know the importance of quality.

55 Getting Real: Epicenter Design

Epicenter design focuses on the true essence of the page — the epicenter — and then builds outward. This means that, at the start, you ignore the extremities: the navigation/tabs, footer, colors, sidebar, logo, etc. Instead, you start at the epicenter and design the most important piece of content first.

56 Frank Chimero - The Shape of Design

Build is a small, yet perfectly formed, boutique design conference where interesting, talented web practitioners from all over the world come to share ideas, techniques and inspiration. Some are on stage; some are in the audience -- www.buildconference.com To really think about design, you need to learn and think about everything other than it.

57 The Angry/Happy Spectrum of Product Design

It all comes down to something I like to call it the angry/happy spectrum. It's easy enough, just put angry on one side of the spectrum and happy on the other. Then there's two critical inflection points to add to the spectrum. 1) When people get angry enough to openly complain.

58 Alan Cooper and the Goal Directed Design Process

Alan Cooper is not your typical graphic designer-he's an engineer and a card-carrying member of the AIGA. He inhabits both worlds and has something important to say to designers and other engineers. Cooper is not one to say things softly. He's outgoing, quick to offer an opinion or an aphorism, and seems to like nothing better than a healthy debate.

59 Designers Should Act More Like A Product Manager

"So why should I understand what a product manager does?" It's because 60 to 70 percent of what Interaction Designers do has a direct correlation in skill set to the Product Management job description. Outside of pricing models and a few other business methodologies, good Interaction designers can easily act as Product Managers in many environments.

60 Product Strategy Means Saying No

If you're building a product, you have to be great at saying No. Not 'maybe' or 'later'. The only word is No. Building a great product isn't about creating tonnes of tactically useful features which are tangentially related. It's about delivering a cohesive product with well defined parameters.

61 Push vs. Pull Design

"Design everything on the assumption that people are not heartless or stupid but marvelously capable, given the chance." - The Internet and Everyone, John Chris Jones For the longest time, I thought design was about assuming that people are "stupid" machines who don't know what they want, and therefore need to be told how to use your product, and that ...

63 Aral Balkan: Superheroes & Villains in Design

Can design be so amazing that it makes us feel superheroic? Can it be so poor that it angers and frustrates us? Can design actually be evil? YES says Aral Balkan emphatically in this insightful, inspiring and often hysterically funny talk. Aral Balkan is an experience designer working to change the world through better design.

64 Vital Elements of the Product Design Process

Product design can look like magic. When I started doing it ten years ago, the small team I worked on made decisions intuitively. There was no system and it worked fine. But as the company grew, I found myself unblocking teams and diagnosing problems. When I saw patterns repeating themselves I decided to codify the questions I was asking.

65 He's Got Web Design Skills: Interview With Haraldur Thorleifsson

Haraldur Thorleifsson is a freelance Creative Director and designer of things that appear on screens. This includes websites, apps, digital watches, TV's and pretty much anything else they can push pixels onto. He has worked extensively with Google, creating designs with various departments and Google entities, including; Google Drive, Google+, Google...

66 Designing Products That Scale

Doing product design in a huge organization is tricky. Clear, constant communication is imperative. A few years ago at Salesforce, that mostly meant hours upon hours of creating static redline specs. I didn't go to school for this stuff, but burning the midnight oil to label CSS attributes across hundreds of screens seemed really, really broken.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Great design books... and the best is that they are free.

67 10 Best Free eBooks for Designers

Ebooks these days are getting immense response for the simple reason that these are easily available. There are thousands of ebooks about everything. Starting with typography, wireframes, logo designs and apps. All those books you can find in Amazon or Apple stores.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “The internet is literally changing our brains. As designers we should realize what effect the information overload has on us and adapt our designs accordingly.

68 The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

One of the major issues dividing the critics was whether Carr's claim that the Internet has shortchanged our brain power is, essentially, correct. Many bought into his argument about the neurological effects of the Internet, but the more expert among them (Jonah Lehrer, for one) cited scientific evidence that such technologies actually benefit the mind.

Added by Wouter de Bres: “Apps are not just a closed digital environment, they are becoming more of an integrated system.

71 The End Of Apps As We Know Them - Inside Intercom

The experience of our primary mobile screen being a bank of app icons that lead to independent destinations is dying. And that changes what we need to design and build. How we experience content via connected devices – laptops, phones, tablets, wearables – is undergoing a dramatic change.… Read more

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