It’s always useful to discuss the latest social sharing trends or best practices when designing a signup form. But whether your work includes designing the next pixel perfect icon library or solving the latest user interface problem, sometimes it’s also a good idea to take a step back and appreciate why we started doing ‘this’ in the first place.
(defined) to acquire knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience.
Don’t you just love working in an industry based on evolving technology? There is always some new tool or technique that will help us get our work done faster, quicker, or better. We should appreciate that learning is a part of our world, and continuous education is required for our success. Staying on top of the latest tools and best practices takes time, but doing it just makes us better designers. We are a large, world-wide community, and it’s wonderful to take advantage of so many ways of learning new things. The world of design is right at our fingertips:
- Online classes
We can learn the latest photoshop trick by watching a 5 minute tutorial or get our master’s degree in (fill in the blank)-- all from the comforts of our home office. Great examples include Lynda.com, Coursera.org, Adobe Tutorials, TeamTreehouse.com, or CodeSchool.com just to name a few.
- Popular blog posts
The design world encompasses so many niches, and each specialty has thought leaders who share their knowledge for those who’ll take the time to read. Subscribe to the top blogs in your field and I’ll guarantee you’ll learn something new. Check out the blogs in Awwwards, Creative Blog, UX Magazine, Smashing Magazine, and UX Movement for access to a huge library of helpful and recent tips and techniques.
- Follow top designers on social media
Not only does social media make professionals seem more human, but it’s often a great way to learn how other designers solve problems and how they interact with the world. Learn new things AND learn how to develop your own brand by noticing those who stand out from the crowd in a positive way. We can get daily design inspiration from the likes of design leaders like Scott Jensen @scottjensen (Apple), Steve Krug @skrug (author of ‘Don’t Make Me Think!”), Irene Au @ireneau (Google), Khoi Vinh @khoi (Adobe) just by scrolling through our twitter (or facebook, instagram, dribbble, behance) feed.
- Collaborate with team members
Learn from others. Our team can make us better designers and we should always welcome constructive criticism. Only the other designers we work with know our internal processes and standards, and often they are the ones who we must rely on to provide feedback when it’s most critical. We’re also surrounded by talented strategists and developers who provide a unique perspective that can also help us learn and grow.
(defined) to see, watch, perceive, or notice.
As designers, don’t just make things look pretty - we solve problems after making insightful observations. The first step in the design process is to define the question. The next step – and sometimes a large part of our job – is to collect information in order to evaluate it. Sometimes it might be a visual problem or a confusing behavior pattern. Either way, get out the popcorn because nine chances out of ten, you’re going to begin answering the question by making a few observations. It’s hard to find a job description for a designer that doesn’t include the term: ‘attention to detail’, and most of us are perfectionists by nature. Revel in it, it’s encouraged here!
(defined) to make or embark upon a venture; dare to enter or go.
Change is the one thing that is guaranteed in the world of design. Our opportunities for trying new things literally surround us every day. There is always a new look, a new color, a new font, a new behavior pattern. Benjamin Franklin said: “Nothing ventured nothing gained.” Since the human brain notices things in their environment that are new and different, designing a product that gets noticed encourages us as designers to try new approaches and break a few boundaries. The nature of our work requires setting our client’s product apart from others in order to get the attention it needs to accomplish its goals. ‘Same ole, same ole’ doesn’t usually work when designing a unique product that will encourage user engagement. Whether it’s a new color palette, a new user pattern, or a new image effect, we should appreciate the ever-present chances for going boldly where no one has gone before.
(defined) to conceive of as a possibility, esp in the future; to foresee.
Finding new ways of approaching information is at the forefront of originality, and a valuable skillset when designing a custom user experience. Maybe a component needs to hold more content than the way it’s currently built, so a new structure and behavior are in order. Or your client has requested a new and fresh-looking website design, but their brand is outdated… you get to envision a new color palette. Trying new color or font combinations that have never been used is an afternoon well spent indeed. And we get to do this for a living!
Working with a variety of clients means many different style guides with the need for the designer to visualize how all the parts could or should work together to form a cohesive whole. Each website’s user interface cannot be approached like creating a piece of art because it must represent the essence of the brand. Since each project is different, we get to change our design style frequently - experiment with different design strategies, interactive patterns, and visual elements. We get to spend our day - or at least part of it - using our imagination.
Most projects start out with a list of questions - and sometimes that list is really long! At the end of the discovery process, we have a bunch of puzzle pieces and it’s up to us to envision the best way to make them fit together. It’s our job to unite form and function. I think that’s pretty cool!