If you’re just starting out in this big, daunting, but equally enjoyable world of Product Design, there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of information to digest.

So pull up a chair/sofa/beanbag/hammock and enjoy this handily collated bunch of tips and advice.


01.

Why your creativity is far more important than the design tool you choose.

In a recent article I read, they touched upon allegiances, and flag-waving toward certain UI Design tools, and how the design tool of choice is secondary to the users creativity. And I completely agree.

Every single one of the design tools available to us, either desktop or cloud based, is just that, a tool. If a designer has the will and determination to be the very best they can be, then they will become that with whatever tool they decide to go with. Certain tools may place restrictions on how far you can push your creativity, but they’ll never completely stifle it.

There’s no magic design tool to suit all types of designers, and you need to remember that, however many times you may be bashed over the head with advocates of a certain one.

Great, no amazing, work can be produced in any design tool that you decide to go with if you’re willing to push yourself as far as you can go creatively.


02.

Why design principles always need to come before trends.

Design trends will come and go, this has, and always will be the case. They’re impossible to ignore, and the influence of them will rub off on you in some way, that’s an inescapable fact.

What is disheartening is to see designers who create a whole portfolio based entirely on trends, and don’t allow their own style and influence to permeate throughout their work. For a young designer this is understandable to a point, they will be more prone to following the crowd, following a trend as they learn, and find their way in the industry, but they need to have more confidence to say ‘This is my style, this is what I do, I feel comfortable with this’ and not just following trends religiously.

I studied Graphic Design back in college (The world was in Sepia when I was in Higher Education), and it was here where I began to learn, and understand basic Design Principles, and how by following, and implementing these fairly simple rules I discovered that I could create much more clearer, stronger, and consistent artwork. Principles, and Rules, which to this day have not changed, and are still, if not more so, relevant when applied to UI Design.

Read up on basic design principles, implement as many as you can into your next project (and the one after that, and the one after that…), and you will see massive improvements in the work you produce, all in your own style, and find yourself less reliant on blindly following trends.


03.

Want to get more s**t done? Why not try Time Blocking.

'Time-Blocking' is applicable to so many industries, including the one that us folks work in, and I can vouch for it being a turning point for me in the way I approached the design project at hand, personal or professional.

It’s something that I use on a day-to-day basis and one that helps me get the most important stuff done, in a smaller time-frame, and not just being busy for busy sake.

I always assumed that just being busy I was actually getting things done. If I cram in 12 hour days I’m in some way getting all the important stuff that needed to be done, done. That wasn’t the case. When I looked back and I noted what I had actually done in that time-frame, I saw that at least a third, if not half of it had been taken up by unwelcome distractions (you know the sort). So my assumption of ‘Well if I’m working 12 hours a day I must be getting more work done than the guy who works 6 hours a day’ was complete bulls**t, and I was fooling myself.

Going back to the Time-Blocking method that I mentioned before, I like to get the most important work that I need to do in a day, done first thing (the morning period), let’s say from 9am till 1pm. That’s when the majority of us are at our peak before the creative fatigue starts to kick in in the afternoon, and our focus fuel light starts to flash red.

Avoid those distractions as much as humanly possible for this time period, and yes that means that sneaky quick refresh of your Twitter feed. Just focus completely on the important task at hand for that day, in that time period you’ve set aside, and I assure you you will get more s**t done, the really important s**t done.


04.

Be a more confident designer by not comparing yourself to others.

It’s so true, that we as designers are guilty, on occasion of looking at the guy/girl next to us and thinking their work is the greatest thing that’s ever graced a digital device, and that our work is in some way inferior to theirs. Imposter Syndrome anyone?

Stop!

Stop doubting your abilities, and the work that you create. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep learning, always look to be improving, in your own way, with your own style.

There are hundreds, no thousands of people out there that think the stuff you’re creating is awesome. Don’t compare to the next person, or think less of your work.

Be a better Designer by not comparing yourself.


05.

Don't ever devalue yourself as a designer.

As a younger designer I had my fair share of projects that either were grossly underpaid, but you needed to take the gig to keep the bank balance topped up, or partnerships that I could play a part in and then share the riches later on when it started to make money, if ever.

Many projects that promised the earth and riches beyond my wildest dreams came calling, and pretty much came to nothing, and not through my want of trying. I would deliver the design assets, but eventually the project would run dry, and never see the light of day. I would put it down to experience and naivety rolled into one. When you’re a young designer starting out, or even with a few years of experience under your belt, you can still find yourself getting sucked into these kinds of ‘collaborations’ that 90% of the time come to nothing.

As I gained more experience, a began to put a strict check list into place, and boxes had to be ticked to fill the criteria of do I commit to this, or not?

If someone is looking for a genuine partnership, and respects your work, then they have to be willing to pay for your time, and effort, simple as that. Unfortunately this kind of practice of promising untold riches later down the line after you’ve given your skills and time for free is as commonplace today as it was 10 years or so ago.

Tread carefully and don’t cheapen yourself or the industry we work in, however colourful those Unicorns and Rainbows might look.


06.

Aspiring designer, are you ready for this very long journey?

Anyone can become a designer, but not everyone wants to be one. You’ve got to have a true passion for it, each and everyday, and strive to be the very best that you can be. No shortcuts.

This goes back to that previous point of mine. About not looking at the guy/girl sat next to you and thinking you work is in any way inferior to theirs. Yes, it may not have the required polish, the correct understanding of what makes truly great design just yet, but don’t think for a second that it’s not good enough, and if you have the insight to know what makes good, and not so good work, then you’re catching on fast, and you just need to improve on the other parts, and that will come.

Don’t be discouraged on your journey, learn, improve, know where you want to head towards in your career and take all the steps necessary to get there, be that by being inspired by other designers’ work, making relationships within the community, reading (yeah reading a lot), and just getting away from that screen sometimes and soaking up the world around you.

Be open to criticism though. ‘Everyone’s a critic’ as the saying goes, and it’s a mere keyboard press away to let their thoughts be heard on work that you’re showcasing.

I see younger designers unable to take any form of criticism, and if you’re that kind of person you need to loosen up, quick-time! There’ll always be troll-tastic folks that have nothing constructive to say. Ignore those, they’re just projecting their insecurities on you. But for constructive criticism take that on board and learn from it, it will help you improve, and grow stronger on your journey.


07.

Should designers at least understand how code works?

Should designers code? Yes it's 2020, and the debate rages on. I’m not getting into that particular argument, but instead sharing my thoughts on why it can be quite beneficial to at least understand how code works.

From personal experience I feel having a knowledge of code has been extremely beneficial to building great relationships with engineers on a project when the time has arisen, and even for those times when I’ve been working alone.

Along the way I picked up enough coding knowledge to be dangerous, and this helped me when working solely on a project, and not farming out the development. It would make me pause for thought, and think along the lines of ‘If I go ahead and design this a certain way, is it just going to be a complete nightmare when I try to code it up?’.

I think if you go back a few years in the extremely short history of the Web, and the roles we played back then, if you freelanced for a time you would be more inclined to have popped your coding hat on also. If all you’d ever known was working in-house, then you would have probably stuck with the defined role that you were hired for.

Touching on my main point. I’m not saying that you need to lock yourself into a darkened room illuminated only by candle for the next 6 months and learn at least half a dozen coding languages before the door gets unlocked, but I feel it pays to just have some semblance of knowledge of the coding aspect when working on a project, and working with engineers. Be that from reading a couple of articles, checking out documentation, or just building a really great relationship with your engineer right from the start, and asking plenty of questions before you commit to certain aesthetic choices. Oh and ask even more questions, just for good measure.

If you have some knowledge of code, however limited that may be, it really does make for a much happier, and streamlined process between yourself and the developer/engineer. Much more beneficial to all parties involved, and better than just saying “I’ll design it, and they can figure out how to make it work. I didn’t sign up for this s**t”.

As a UI/UX Designer working in a team, or not, having an understanding of how code works is not always a must but it’s a damn good thing to have at your disposal if you can.

Thanks for reading the article (Oh, and please share it),
Marc x

Be awesome. Join mrcndrw.

Want to be the first to discover more great Tips, Inspiration, and Offers?Awesome! Hop on to my Mailing List and let's do this...

Marc Andrew

Hey there. I'm Marc. Just an 'Old-Skool' Designer bringing the knowledge, and helping folks improve their skills, all whilst drinking lots of Tea.

Follow on Twitter