Takeaways from the #DailyUI Challenge
My latest job was in enterprise design. For those who don’t know what enterprise design is, there’s a bunch of great articles out there such as this one that explain it better than I can. Basically, enterprise design is design implemented by businesses for internal use. If you google it, you’ll find dozens of articles arguing wether or not it can be as “sexy” as consumer-driven design. This is because it’s known to be data heavy, feature intensive, and swaddled in red tape. Enterprise design can be summed up in one word: Complicated.
Which leads me to the #DailyUI challenge.. When I first heard about it, I was hesitant. I’m admittedly lazy, especially by designer standards, so the task of completing something every single day seemed daunting. Looking at the prompts and examples of work are what finally convinced me to give it a shot. If anything, I thought it would be a good excuse to design in a way I don’t normally get to do at my day job. I also thought it would be a good excuse to revive my Dribbble account which had been terribly neglected.
I just wouldn’t hold myself accountable for doing it every single day.
A full-time job, some semblance of a social life, and just being shamelessly lazy.. I knew I wouldn’t make it four days if I held myself to the daily part of the challenge. So, I cheated. The design police will arrest me any day now, reciting Dieter Ram’s 10 Principles of Good Design as they restrain me with digital handcuffs designed by Jonathan Ive.
If you look through the tags on Dribbble, you’ll see that many people attempted the challenge only to only last a few days. You’ll also see that there’s other people, such as myself, that didn’t follow the rules. ..Whoops?
Cheating aside, there is something to be said about practicing a skill every day.. Ira Glass said it best:
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that 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, and 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 it’s 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.”
Practicing something every day will make you better. This isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges along the way. Some of the results of this challenge were admittedly hideous..
..But I also learned a lot. I learned how to use Sketch. I revisited animation skills I hadn’t used in years, learning new skills along the way. I also learned that “user interface” encompasses much more than I had initially thought. I didn’t realize just how many kinds there are!
While doing this challenge, at least thirty different articles popped up denouncing it. The challenge has sparked an interesting discussion about how design is discussed. Some people would argue that because design is tied to business, it needs to meet certain criteria to be valid. But does every design need to be validated? I think being able to experiment without limitations can lead to interesting design discoveries. In a digital age where design as we know it is becoming more and more homogenous, it’s that much more important to explore outside of our comfort zones. The results may not always be terribly “realistic”, but they can still resonate on an emotional and personal level. To me, that’s worthwhile in itself.