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2017 roundup: What did the industry teach these 10 designers?

If the design industry of 2017 was a metaphor, it’d be a slap round the face with a big wet fish — unpredictable, against convention and a colourful turn of events for all involved.

We’ve seen some huge leaps forward (or sideways, you decide), punted along primarily by the continuing shift from standards-first traditional print design methods and rules towards a ‘break the grid’, mobile-first design process.

With design trends flipping norms on their heads, I decided to reach out to 10 fantastic designers and producers that have caught my eye over the past 12 months, to learn what the industry has taught them this year.

Enjoy.


Matt D. Smith — @mds

Matt D. Smith

Design director at Studio MDS — Athens GA, U.S.

The highlights this year for me are building and releasing products that I really believe in. Sometimes client work isn’t in perfect alignment with what you’re passionate about, so it’s very empowering to work on something you’ll use very regularly. And the two of the products I released Contrast and Sketch Flowkit are things that I use all the time. It’s been awesome to see the design community getting value out of them too.

Favourite product of 2017

Sketch (I didn’t let him have UseContrast).


Steve Schoger — @steveschoger

Steve Schoger

Designer for @TightenCo and @taylorotwell — Ontario, Canada.

The most valuable thing I learned in 2017 is to share everything you know. Earlier this year I read a blog post by Nathan Barry titled, “How Teaching Everything I Know Grew My Audience”. This really resonated with me and since then I’ve been sharing everything I learn through in-depth posts on my blog to little tips on Twitter — even if it’s relatively basic knowledge. Not only does this help people who are following me but it has helped me reflect on the work I am doing so I can take my own advice forward and grow as a designer.

Nicola Rushton — @nicolarushton

Nicola Rushton

Startup research and design consultant at nicolarushton.com — Sydney, Australia

This year I had reaffirmed that following up on your creative ideas, even if you have no idea where they’ll take you, is almost always the best thing you can do. People who have done amazing things never knew exactly where they’d get to when they started, but I hear so many people cut their own idea down, and never even try it. I trust in this: make things and tell people about them. Good things you can’t even guess will come of it!

Favourite product of 2017

Zeplin (BYE specs!).


Cassius Kiani — @CassiusKiani

Cassius Kiani

Design & Product at Slock.it — London, England

I’ve learnt the value of being ruthless with my time — saying no to as much as possible, ignoring negativity and focusing on my own personal development. The same is happening within the industry, which is great, because designers have an intrinsic need (and necessity) to please people with their work. It’s always good to see people taking better care of themselves and their own interests too.

Favourite product of 2017:

Evernote.


Steven Fabre — @stevenfabre

Steven Fabre

Senior Product Designer at InVision — Sydney, Australia

One of the things I learned in 2017 is how valuable design principles can be. On the Studio team, they helped us make better decisions, reach agreements faster, and keep a cohesive experience throughout the app. My favourite one is “pixels over properties”, meaning we optimise for the user’s intuition instead of the system’s. For example, when you ask yourself “what should we do when a user copies and pastes a layer that’s 80% width?“, it’s instantly clear that we should maintain visual aspect, even if the width might change.

Favourite product of 2017

Dropbox Paper (I didn’t let him have InVision Studio).


Tiantian Xu — @tiantianxu

Tiantian Xu

UX Designer at Amazon Kindle — Seattle, U.S.

UI animation has become mainstream in 2017. The barriers to entry have been lowered significantly by all the emerging prototyping tools on the market. Soon enough, motion design will be a required skill for all designers.

Favourite product of 2017

Typeform.


Damien Terwagne — @ropesandhopes

Damien Terwagne

Design Lead at Airtasker — London

Technology/innovation (AI, VR, etc) makes for a huge part of the conversations we see about design or software in general. There is more to design than the tech we use though; we need to think a lot more about how much our work — and the lack of consideration for certain areas — affects other people’s lives. I’m talking about accessibility, addictiveness of products or privacy of personal data. Design can no longer be solely about making things look good at the surface level. We urgently need to (re)define what success means for our companies in the future and design solutions that solve real problems (big and small) without creating new ones along the way.

Favourite product of 2017

Dropbox Paper


Patima Tantiprasut — @the_patima

Patima Tantiprasut

Creative Director / Co-owner Bam Creative — Perth, Australia

The rise of design systems has opened up an era of maturity and appreciation of design value within companies. While it’s enabled quality, ownership and dialogue between designers, marketers and developers, I think that we’re still exploring and figuring out what this means for branding. Many established brands underwent identity changes that were the hot topic of so many discussions. It felt akin to an awkward growth spurt from adolescence into adulthood, but not without going through that classic attention seeking, tenacious teen stage first.
2017 seemed to be a time of exploration and play, as seen with the introduction of bold colour combinations, illustration and art. Is there a correlation between implementing systems to massive brand explorations happening? Perhaps!

Favourite product of 2017

Sketch.


Hayden Bleasel — @haydenbleasel

Hayden Bleasel

Director at Lightsaber — Sydney, Australia

You need to stop using “MVP” as an excuse to launch shit products. You might understand what an MVP is because you’re a techie or a founder, but do your leads and customers know? To them, it’s just a really bad first impression. Take some time to polish your MVP before releasing it. At the end of the day, customers don’t give a shit what technology your platform is built on if it looks and feels amazing.

Favourite product of 2017

Newton.


Noemi Stauffer — @noemistauffer

Noemi Stauffer

Founder of Flow Supply Co. and Editor of Fresh Fonts — Montreal, Canada

I’ve noticed the emergence of designers with a broader set of skills, blurring the lines between design, product management and marketing. They give equal importance to designing the product, testing and validating its value proposition, or core features, and finding the right messaging to promote it. Relying on an exploratory and constructive mindset, they overcome the fear of shipping products early, gather feedback in unexpected ways, and consistently adapt to the ever-changing needs of their users.

Favourite product of 2017

Wealthsimple.


There we have it — a blockbuster year that taught us so many things. Our takeaways from today are,

  • Keep following through on passion products
  • Teach others — Don’t keep your secrets to yourself
  • Be ruthless with your time management
  • Establish your design principles, and stick with them
  • Always strive for accessibility
  • Be adaptable

Until next time folks.


I started 8px magazine with the intention of showing the human side of designers. There’s more to designers than the quality of their pixel-pushing.

If you’re interested in writing for 8px magazine, sign up and I’ll be in touch.