Are we becoming lazy as designers?

Remember, it’s not as simple as “colouring in”.

With every development in technology, tasks of every type and size become easier and easier. People do less yet output is increased, but are we beginning to forget the purpose for our actions?

This statement has become true for many things, from day to day tasks to how we do our jobs. As my experience lies in the design industry I’ve had first hand experience how designers have been effected by this.


The age of the sheep

There’s a growing thought process in designers to always be following the latest trends, but can this be damaging to our designs?

Apple and Google started as leading experts in technology but slowly became those we looked to for the next trend in design. Material design is a great example of a trend started that became diluted by a general misunderstanding of what Google actually set out to achieve. With flat design already existing, many simply thought that it’s just a reincarnation of flat design and a some what redesign. So many people have attempted material design from an aesthetic point of view, misplacing elements and misusing animation, simply becoming another flat design. What Google actually did was create an interaction architecture that gave meaning and purpose to the way we use an interface, they took flat design and gave it a reason to live.

We also spend a large part of our day on inspiration websites, looking for a an example of how someone else has achieved the problem we face. There are two issues we now face with current sites:

  1. There’s no real context to the solutions we find as we only tend to see things in silo. How does the element sit with the rest of the experience they created?
  2. If we stick to the same sources, inevitably everything starts to look the same, Dribbble being a perfect example of this.

With the age of the sheep upon us, we are in danger of creating design that looks exactly the same as everyone else’s. The key here is to gather inspiration from every aspect of the world and to explore outside of your comfort zone to push concepts further. There’s no harm in taking elements from other’s work, as long as we push it further and create something unique that carries a clear purpose. There’s also no harm in creating something new, don’t be afraid of testing new ways of doing things. Be the leader, not the sheep.


Better software means more time.. to do what?

Photoshop as we all know was the industry leader for all types of design for a very long time, a gap in the market opened however for digital design and Sketch was born. I’m a big advocate of Sketch having implemented it within my previous company and saw how much benefit it had throughout a process, especially when working with development.

What we found was that we were able to iterate faster with the use of art boards, style guides were no more and with the abundance of plugins design could be created quickly. What this meant was that we had more time to do other things. Two paths formed for designers here:

  1. Bring on the next project, BOOM!
  2. Yay! More time to spend refining the design!

Like an artist, a designer needs to learn when to stop. We all have a bit of OCD and constantly struggle with finding what is the right answer. Sometimes it’s best to step back and think simply, “Does this solve the problem?”. It might not be the right solution but that’s what we have testing for! Design it, test it, iterate. When the answer is yes, it’s time to move on.

The danger in refining design is, what if what you had done was the best solution? Are you going to be wasting the next few days? There’s also a danger in losing the original purpose of the design and it becoming more about, “ooh wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?”. This leads in to an ever evolving battle with prototyping. More and more people are using new prototyping tools to test their ideas, but are we really using the tools for the right reason?


Prototyping wars

Over the last year, the amount of prototyping tools has exploded. A new one every week accompanied by another article comparing the best 1000 prototyping tools.

For designers, seeing our design work is a dream and if we can see it sooner we will. Prototyping has become more of an excuse to add some thrill to our process. Designers are sharing their animations across the web, but actually how many are useful prototypes? Could you have just explained this to me and I could easily imagine it?

Prototyping is useful when it comes to production, it helps bridge a communication gap with development where we’re unable to explain our intensions. It’s also a great to show off an idea for presentation to the wider team and or client. Prototyping is not useful when it’s for every single idea you have, that’s why we have a pen and paper.

Ask yourself a few questions before you prototype:

  1. Can I just explain this?
  2. If I can’t explain it easily, is it too complex?
  3. Is there a genuine use for the prototype i.e. user testing?

A good designer communicates their solution with ease, they involve all members of the team throughout and where possible utilise developers to rapid prototype ideas. You shouldn’t have to create a prototype for everything if you put in the extra effort and be proactive enough to utilise the team around you.


Time is there for us to branch out

If we’re filling the time we have by extending the task at hand, we’re only stopping ourselves from learning in other ways.

In this day and age the concept of a designer has grown and so we’ve come to know titles such as Product Designers. Realistically the only way to become a better designer is to further understand the purpose for our design. Time gives us a chance to work closely with UX and help have an impact on it as naturally the two work hand in hand. The more we work with UX, the more we branch out of our comfort zone of aesthetics and gain a higher knowledge of design.

When we’re able to understand the full experience, we’re able to see how our design will work across multiple touch points and perfect the consistency of our design.

Avoid waisting time with things that don’t push your understanding further. Having extra time enables us to learn new ways of looking at design, over time developing how we approach it and inevitably becoming a leader.

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