11 Ways to Improve Your Design Skills

You have a thing for design but not sure where to start? You’re falling for UI/UX ? This is what you need to know.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” — Ira Glass

1. Inspiration sources : good artists copy, great artists steal. Look around you, have a taste. Imitate. Here are a few inspirational sources.

Muzzli’s inspirational dashboard got @ https://muz.li/

2. Sketch : the sketches. Take a notebook and start drawing. Picture your app. Imagine how people will use it. Break it down into interactions. “If I tap on A, B shows up”. Draw your As and Bs.

3. Sketch : the software. Amazing for mobile design. Built-in tools will help you get started pretty fast. Amazing communities here and here. Amazing resource at designcode.io .

4. Adobe Illustrator trials : gotta catch them all. I suggest to try a few versions until you become comfortable enough to buy the license. Why will you use Illustrator instead of say… Photoshop? Forks are easier to use for one thing, spoons for another. You’ll use Illustrator for vectorization. To create perfect 1024x1024 icons, for example.

Final iteration of the 10 min MTL app logo (more @ www.app10min.com)

5. Adobe Photoshop trials : same, gotta catch them all. Also, this is Zeus. Tweak any design detail, build from scratch or enhance any story. This is your bread and butter.

6. Sketch/Photoshop kits: a convenient starting point and an amazing source of inspiration. Instead of starting from scratch, you can start with a template or a theme. Combine layers, alter them, design yours and reiterate until you have some good start. Here are some examples:

InVision Tethr templates got @ https://www.invisionapp.com/tethr

7. Create a story, a flow, based on your design. Use InVision or Principle, tools that will allow users to interact with what you built.

8. Expose your work for feedback. That’s how you improve. That’s how you confirm if people understand your story. Ask for as much constructive criticism as you can. Ask as many people as you can, and know your audience. Here are a few groups outstanding for their help :

First iteration of the 10 min MTL app logo (more @ www.app10min.com)

9. Behance : expose your work. Once you’re done with your design, present it. Keep your online portfolio up to date. That’s Behance, and later on, when you’re confident enough, that’s also Dribble.

10. Follow people. Have your own style but listen, read, pay attention to details. Here are some admirable “rare pokemons” and here is a brief coverage of a few more.

11. Grab a book. There are tons on the topic. Here are some essential ones :

  • Don’t make me think, by Steve Krug
  • The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
  • The “A Book Apart” collection

@dandancrisan is a Software Engineer, aspiring designer & maker, ❤ing San Francisco and working on 10 min MTL in his free time (: Hit me up for coffee or if you have any questions .


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