Answers about Design

To letters that I received

7 February, 2014
What sort of advice would you give to a designer who is trying to learn to code?

I guess it comes down to what kind of product you’d like to build. Then, just learn to code based on that and ruthlessly simplify that process as far as you can until it becomes obvious.

In 2014, the first thing I would tell designers is to learn all about mobile. Specifically iOS. If you really care about great products, then you’ll have to acknowledge that the medium that Apple created is nothing short of magical. iOS 7 is the simplification of it and you can do so much with it in a fraction of effort compared to 5 years ago. A few lines of code can literally apply physics to objects or make use of the Maps and Camera. While implementing those features for Canvas, Carshare and Ripple, I came to the realization that great coders care as much about simplicity as designers do. That’s why 7 years after the iPhone was released, things are much simpler now. Even a functional to-do App can be learned in a 10-page tutorial.

Work on real products by achieving the same level of standard that you apply to design. Create things that are useful to others, and especially to you. Give priority to iterations that you have absolute confidence in. Find that confidence while using your own work.


13 January, 2014
Do you have any tips to start out my design career?

1. Breathe design. It’s everywhere — from the moment you wake up to the moment you get lost in your imagination. See, read, observe and definitely use. Use everything that has care behind it. Absorb. Don’t ever stop.

2. Wake up early and sleep early. Your mind needs to be fresh because good design requires clear thinking.

3. Bend the rules. Yes, you’ll be sharp and consistent, minimalist and trendy, but you can’t be sterile. You have to innovate and speak design from the heart. Go travel, get out of your comfort zone and view things from another perspective. Don’t settle.

4. Reach balance. This one is the hardest since you need to play well with both chaos (Art) and order (Design). One cannot go without the other. Work hard, but don’t forget to engage with everyone. Work is not work if you love what you do. You’ll know when things get unbalanced because you have intuition. Follow it.

5. Always do your best work. Hone your skills. Good design attracts work.


I understand that my answer is very abstract. That’s because design principles are long lasting while trends change on a daily basis. Still, let me follow up with some specifics:

  1. Follow quality designers on Dribbble. Especially those who break trends and also write concisely. Being able to communicate your ideas is crucial to being a good designer.
  2. Read articles on Designer News. Participate in great conversations and tickle your curiosity.
  3. Follow thinkers on Twitter. Be active and start conversations with people. Speak your thoughts in simple sentences. Simplify your words just as you simplify your designs.
  4. Read books about principles. Dieter Rams, Jony Ive, Steve Jobs. They’re the greats that inspired your heroes.
  5. Post your best work on all of those networks. Get feedback and thrive on it. Never give up. Get a PRO account on Dribbble and enable “Hire Me”. Most of your gigs will come from it. But remember, money is just a mean to do the things that you love, which is design. Be empowered to do good design.

20 November, 2013
I’m finding being a web developer is interesting but rarely exciting. What are the best and worst parts of being a UI designer?

I don’t like to see roles as limited as “Web Developer” or “UI Designer”. I’m just excited about building products and I want the best user experience, no matter what. I will be the designer, the engineer and even the janitor if that’s what it takes. The best and worst part of being a UI Designer is that your work is seen and judged very quickly. In a way, it’s how products should be since you want to get feedback as quickly as possible. How do you get people past that surface and get them really use your product? Care is definitely a start.


Your designs seem to feature lovely harmonious colour schemes which I feel is one of the harder skills to peg down to method. What publications, websites, blogs, and books do you read on design and in general?

Nature is probably the biggest inspiration for all things. Harmony exists in nature; all you need to do is translate it to the digital world, on the medium you’re designing for.


It seems like designers consistently change companies when moving up in rank. Is that generally the case or are there other common career paths?

Design requires much emotional investment, therefore it’s harder to cope with. It’s easier to get lost in communications. That’s why it’s very hard to stick for a long time. Just like you need to feel excited and motivated, you need to reboot yourself often.


Besides a beautiful portfolio, what makes you leave a great lasting impact in the companies that you work with?

I think the portfolio is just a superficial layer showcasing what truly matters: the products that you build and the skills that you acquire. In the end, it doesn’t matter what companies you worked for. What matters is the product you built and the impact you had on people’s lives. You want to take with you the skills and fond memories that will inspire your next great projects.


Are there other people you think I should be talking to? You’re definitely more plugged in than I am, so I would really appreciate any suggestions you have.

Hmm, there are a lot of great product designers out there. But the ones that I personally met and that are very approachable in a way that you may find helpful are: Jean-Marc Denis from Sparrow, Nathan Manousos from Flinto and Sacha Greif from Sidebar.io.