There are many ways for you to improve your design skills. Some are more effective than others, and some are easier to adopt than others. All in all, we gathered 5 ways that will definitely step up your game:
As a first step, think about applications, websites, and programs you enjoy using. Think about what design aspects they use to increase your enjoyment. Is it their Onboarding? Smooth animations? Clean layout? Color choice? You can also go a step further and seek out platforms like Dribbble, Awwwards or Pinterest and start browsing. Find designs you like and think about what works well and why it catches your eye.
Knowing why you enjoy a design is one side of the coin. Knowing how it is built, what kind of parts or separate components it is made of is the other side. Let’s take a design you enjoy and rebuild it with a tool of your choice. If paper, photoshop, balsamiq or anything else, is up to you.
You will not only learn how to work with the tool itself, but also, learn to work with it faster and more efficiently. This step in particular can be the start point for a steep career in design: Our Head of Design started by rebuilding popular digital products which served exactly these purposes - to be more effective with the tools and gain valuable insight into design particulars.
Besides getting to know a tool, you will explore every little part of the product you are rebuilding from core. Step by step, you will know what element supports what and what shapes and colors deliver the message you pursue.
There’s no way around learning a little theory. A good place to start is with the following resources: The Gestalt Principles, The 10 Principles of Good Design by Dieter Rams or The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.
Devised by psychologists, these principles describe how humans group objects and how the brain processes them as belonging together. An example would be the Law of Proximity. It says that close objects appear to relate to each other compared to separated elements.
In practice that means, when structuring website components, one rule is important ‘what belongs together should be closer to each other’. Therefore, headlines and their paragraphs appear closer together than other elements for example.
Dieter Rams is a well-known figure in the Industrial Design community, famous for his designs when working with the german company Braun. What Rams defines as good design can be summarized in 10 Principles.
His minimalistic and sustainable approach still has a huge influence today. For example, most products of Apple follow his principles faithfully. Some people even pay homage to famous products designed by Rams. One of his top principles is “Good design involves as little design as possible.” Following this principle will improve your designs ultimately.
As you might know, “Clean Code” by Robert Martin is the holy grail of good coding. For designers a close equivalent is the “Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. He’s a pioneer in user-centered design and well-established in the fields of design, research and usability. Since there’s no one who could possibly teach the relationship between affordances and signifiers better than him, we leave you a link to his free course.
If you struggle with the placement of certain components or you just don’t find the perfect solution to a problem, a great way to come up with new ideas is through sketching. Using pen and paper you start out on a clean slate; you aren’t constrained by the settings or default components of digital prototyping tools. So whenever you feel you have entered a slump just grab a notebook and start to sketch.
Mentoring is an essential part of the engineering world for junior developers to improve on their own skills. The same can be said about design and designers. Getting feedback from experienced and skilled designers may open up new ways to solve design problems or improve proposed solutions. If you know, work, or have friends who are designers, use the opportunity to learn from their year-long experience. However, not everyone has the resources to ask for feedback. If you personally don’t know designers, the internet is a great place to receive feedback from strangers all over the world. Of course, there are one or two subreddits for that.