Justifying The #DailyUI Trend

My thoughts on why it became quite so popular.

Ollie Barker
Jan 15, 2016 · 3 min read

The Daily UI challenge was easily one of the biggest design trends in 2015. Popularised by Paul Nechita’s 100 Day UI Challenge, it immediately exploded in popularity, flooding peoples Twitter, Dribbble and inspiration feeds with designs that didn’t really solve any actual design problems.

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Now the trend has peaked, we can start to examine just why it became so popular.

As designers we’re either working as an employee of a company or as a freelancer being contracted in to solve a problem. Usually when we’re in one of these scenarios, we’ll be working on something, but due to agreements and contracts, we’re not allowed to share or publicise the work while it’s in development and occasionally even when it’s live. This often makes it hard to claim credit for the work you want to share.

As designers we’re always looking back at our old work and thinking how much it could have been improved with only the benefit of hindsight. This is often how we gauge how our skills have evolved. By knowing that every project we undertake, we are learning something new we could have applied to an earlier assignment.

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Therefore I don’t think it’s uncommon to feel that you’re not being able to promote yourself to your fullest, because you’re unable to showcase your best work through portfolios, case studies etc.

The Other End of the Spectrum

We can then look at the other side of the spectrum, where designers are having trouble finding work at all, despite having a fairly solid skill-set.

A large majority of us will, at some stage starting out in our careers, have ended up in a paradoxical catch-22 situation where we’ve needed work to showcase to get work, but don’t have any work to showcase because you can’t get work. Right?

Perhaps you’re on the hunt for a new position at a industry-leading design agency but only have outdated work you’re able to show them. What can you do?

Then Along Came the Daily Challenge

A trend was set in motion when Paul Nechita uploaded Day 001 of his Daily UI Elements for 100 days project. Maybe it was the pretence of a challenge that started it all. Whatever the reason, it meant designers had an excuse and a shared calling to produce visual design pieces with little thought to the user experience or interaction aspects of design; focusing almost entirely on being visually pleasing.

It allowed designers (myself included for a few days) to express their visual creativity without the constrictions, requirements and limitations that real-world projects provide.

With the rough time limit of 24 hours also applying, the scope of work required is tiny relative to a full-scale project. It’s something that can be done quickly in just a few short hours for a designer at almost any skill level.

What does it mean?

Once again it all comes down to understanding. As long as you understand you’re only representing one level of design with these exercises and openly recognise that, it can be a great way to demonstrate your visual design talents and even practice them.

They’re not meant to solve any design problems. They’re meant to help solve your problems. They take you out of your comfort-zone and give you the freedom to put as much thought into each days exercise as you’d like.

It can help you to promote your talents in small bite-sized chunks without huge time commitments and probably—most importantly—without the limitations client work enforces.

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