5 Tips to Get Designer Friends and Make a Kick-Ass Product

Where does a great back-end solution go? Nowhere, without a front-end. So, you have two options: do it yourself, or get a designer to help. Designers probably seem like a different species of human. Half your previous encounters probably ended up awkward or hostile.

As a development team that’s grown from 4 people into a company with just shy of 40 members (with 4 in-house designers!), we at Oursky happy to say it’s possible to love working together!

Of course, there are plenty of differences too, including how terminology, working habits, and approaches to the problem. This post is a quick set of 5 tips to get you on the right track with someone who can help take your product to the next level.

Empathy for designers

Colour concept UI Design

Simple colours aren’t so basic.

The key to working with designers is respecting what they do and empathizing with their process. Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. Even though you may not get why a designer is so hung up over a specific shade of pink, it’s important to try. Since visuals are their forte, if they care, take it as a learning experience rather than a roadblock. Empathy is key to appreciating a designer’s differences and turning them into strengths.

Oftentimes, a designer may not fully understand the technical constraints behind the product they’re imagining. That’s okay. Your job is to explain it to them until they can modify the design knowing what the limitations are. A designer’s job is to imagine the possibilities for a user: layouts, styles, features, etc.

One of our greatest assets at Oursky is our design team. We’re proud of our code, but for our client’s it’s the UI and UX that set us apart. It’s easy to say blue and green is just a detail, but they will tweak the exact shade that will capture the brand identity for a client. Our developers respect it because we code better after we’ve had project meetings with our designers and know they’re covering us on the front-end.

Understand basic design concepts

UI-BASIC-3

In order to communicate with a designer aptly, a developer needs to understand the rudimentary designing concepts. Here are some example points to start with:

  • Think of visuals as a language
  • Learn what visual hierarchy means
  • Screen layouts
  • Color theory
  • Typography — the key to a good designer’s heart is appreciation for typography

Check these out:

Don’t make assumptions

MakeAppIcon Mockup Logo Design

The hours behind one visual concept: MakeAppIcon Logo

That old expression “assumptions make an ass out of you and me” is pretty true. It’s tempting to look at a final design and assume it didn’t take too long. It might be tempting to assume you understand the process of design after reading a few articles. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Instead, ask questions. Ask how and why a designer has decided on something. Using your logic, not your judgement, continue asking the things you’re concerned about or don’t understand. Don’t make assumptions about what you think the product should look like. If you need design input, ask, don’t assume their reaction. Of course, share your visual ideas as well even if it isn’t your expertise — people can always bounce ideas! The point of collaboration is to push new boundaries together.

Perhaps if you want to stick to code, try some front-end coding and test some layouts just to get a sense of what others do.

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Engineers and designers have the same goals

oursky mockup phone

Oursky’s simple MockuPhone landing page conveys key ideas to target users.

Designers and developers have a lot in common. At Oursky, everyone likes our cats. Jokes aside, everyone is also passionate about quality products.

Engineers are passionate about code, and designers are passionate about visuals. Both are just passionate about solving problems with great products. Design solutions just end up visual. Users and clients like visual. The user interface is how a user interacts with your code that makes a product functional.

If you’re a developer with a product in mind, involve a designer as early as possible. Schedule a meeting after you’ve done some research on what frameworks you might use, but haven’t started coding yet. Bounce your ideas around and if a designer is interested, they will probably start drawing. This dynamic will help you brainstorm features or perspectives you probably hadn’t considered earlier, and save you time when you do begin coding.

Check this out:

Don’t drop the ball after a design’s delivered

After a project’s done, it’s easy to move on to other things. Don’t forget to celebrate a finished project! The key to a good working relationship is that it is maintained.

A usual work cycle with a freelance designer is probably 1) Design proposal, 2) critique and feedback, 3) amendments, 4) developer implements. It’s easy to forget about the designer after that, even to tell them about a product launch. From a designer’s perspective, they’re working with a black box; they don’t know whether their designs were adopted, if changes were made, or how they were received. Win a designer over by involving them in the process. Once a while, grab a beer, even if it means you both go right back to work after.

Make sure you message them personally and give them access to the beta tests and tell them about the launch date. Involving a good designer will mean that they’re more invested and willing to work with you again. Down the road, they may even join your team.

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The perks of having designers on a development team!

Oursky’s lead designer, Frank, started out as a part-time with our company before joining full-time. Now, we have 4 talented designers in our company. Our design team has essential to our products, such as Jamn Player, which won Editor’s Choice on the Apple Store and had 700k+ downloads. Oursky began as a team of four hard-core developers who cared just enough about design to attract professional designers who have helped us build great products for our clients. With the right approach, you can too!

PS: One of the big problems we’re working on right now is optimizing our golden rule: don’t repeat yourself. To solve that problem, our developers and designers are creating Skygear.io, an open source development kit for mobile, web & IoT apps. Go take a swing for free!


😻 At Oursky we’re all about helping brands and entrepreneurs make their ideas happen. Get in touch if you’re looking for a partner to help build your next digital product.