My constantly morphing design manifesto

Writing down what we learn is important.

As designers, each day we find ourselves thick in the weeds of countless design decisions. As we bushwhack our way forward, we subconsciously pick up tricks to cut a more efficient path toward our goals.

In writing this manifesto, I hope to zoom out from my day to day to crystalize some of the tricks I’ve learned. I also hope to create a field guide of sorts, a set of strategies and tactics that other designers can use to think about their own principles, and hopefully to inspire at least a couple others to write manifestos of their own.

The list:

  • Define every element that will go on the page in writing and then prioritize that list; use the list to determine your visual hierarchy.
  • Prioritized lists are just generally a great call, use them whenever possible.
  • Don’t just know the pain points you’re solving, emotionally experience them.
  • As a rule, Luke Wroblewski knows best.
  • When you present work, always be thoughtful about telling the story. A good model to follow here is:
  • 1. Start by setting the scene; connect your audience to your user and what they hope to achieve
  • 2. Describe the challenge your users currently face in achieving their goals and connect your audience to their struggle
  • 3. Paint a picture of the future when that struggle is solved, illustrating the opportunity it presents for your company
  • 4. Now that the stage is set, walk through the solution you’re proposing from the perspective of your user. If your audience is building the product with you, walk through the solution again, this time depicting all the details that are important to them. Ask for their ideas on how to make your solution better
  • 5. Finish by tying everything back to how your user achieving their goals will drive your business forward
  • People support the things they help create. Get buy-in from your team by envisioning solutions communally.
  • Whenever possible, show work in prototype form.
  • In design meetings, ask questions that reframe the conversation in terms of user goals and pre-defined principals, i.e. for the user, what is more important here, efficiency or consistency?
  • When designing complex flows, a lot of easy steps are usually better than fewer more complex steps.
  • If you find you or your team internally getting mixed up on what goes where, your Information Architecture is probably off. Doing a quick card sort should help a lot.
  • Larger hit points are better.
  • 2 px rounded corners are usually a good place to start.
  • Subtle shadows are not evil and can improve your usability.
  • Clarity. Efficiency. Consistency. Beauty. In that order.
  • Build on the shoulders of others. See how other people have solved what you’re trying to tackle before jumping into your own solutions.
  • Listen ten times more than you speak.
  • Always try to see the other side’s perspective, it is shockingly easy to want to defend your own viewpoint.
  • Always always always put people first. Nothing else really matters.
  • Share knowledge, write articles to clarify your thoughts and help your peers.
  • Don’t be a designer who shuts down ideas, be a designer who listens to peoples ideas and then quickly prototypes them into reality. As designers one of our greatest powers is our ability to efficiently turn ideas into things we can interact with and learn from.
  • When ideating, resist fidelity. Sketch sketch sketch, until you’ve drawn everything there is to draw.
  • “Don’t make me think” really is the rule to live by. Imagine your users exerting 10% of the brainpower you are.
  • Define your goal, then fight ferociously to maintain team focus and alignment on achieving that goal.
  • Don’t make anything unless its necessary, but if its necessary don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.
  • Build MVPs that are actually MVPs, i.e. Literally only what it needs to function (car doors are not MVP for a car).
  • The most common mistake you can make is to build something no one wants.
  • Include titles with your icons.
  • Use an 8 point grid.
  • Use sentence case.
  • Whites and grays are good, use color sparingly and with purpose.
  • Visual design is all about consistency (and rare breaks of the pattern).
  • Have fun, be yourself, and get silly, the process is what it’s all about and your team will end up stronger for it.
  • Name those damn layers!
  • If your hotkey game ain’t tight, you snoozin’.
  • Relish the joy of switching between big picture and minute detail.
  • Speak as simply as possible, being understood is cooler than sounding smart.
  • Praise publicly, critique privately.
  • Give positive feedback whenever genuinely possible.
  • Never talk shit.
  • Always be curious.

If this was at all helpful to anyone, I’d love to know. If anyone has written a design manifesto of their own, I’d love to see it!

I’m currently designing at Grovo and design mentoring at RookieUp. You can check out some of my other work here.