If you’re just starting out in this big, daunting, but equally enjoyable world of UI/UX 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 handy collection of (not so obvious) tips and advice.


01.

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

A row of icons presented on a laptop screen

In an article I came across, they touched upon allegiances, and flag-waving toward certain UI Design tools, and how the design tool of choice is really 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.

A top down view of an assortment of old lettering blocks

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.

An egg timer sat slanted in a pile of stones

'Time-Blocking' is something I can vouch for as being a turning point for me in the way I approached a design project, both personally and professionally.

It’s something that I now 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 never comparing yourself to others.

A young kid looking at the camera, and riding a red bike down a city street

It’s so true, that 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.

A jar of coins sat on its side with the coins spilling out

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?

A man wearing a jacket and beanie, looking up towards a snow peaked mountain

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.

Thanks for reading the article,
Marc Andrew.

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