In two recent posts (The Dribbblisation of Design and How to Hire Designers) Paul Adams from Intercom started a debate about the place Dribbble plays in our industry.

The gist of Paul’s argument is that Dribbble puts a lot of emphasis on visual design. And that by doing so, it’s taking the focus away from other important components of design, such as outcome (big-picture thinking), system (defining features), and interaction (how these features work) design.

Paul’s four components of design

Now there’s two parts to this argument. One, that the functional components of design are under-emphasized. Two, that Dribbble is somehow responsible, or at least complicit.

Oooh, Shiny!

I have no qualms with the first part. Things that are not outright visible tend to often be overlooked. And people judge the finished product, not the process that went into it.

For better or for worse, it’s just how the human mind works: no matter what the proverb tells us, we judge book by their covers. Not only is it much faster than actually having to read the whole thing, but it’s what covers are made for in the first place.

Blaming Dribbble

On the other hand, I don’t see how any of that is Dribbble’s fault. Here’s the comment I left in response to How to Hire Designers:

I feel like you’re focusing on the wrong things. Just because someone creates beautiful wireframes doesn’t mean they have mastered the outcome, system, and interaction layers.
And just because someone likes creating pixel-perfect Photoshop mockups doesn’t mean they have no clue about functional design.
Dribbble is great at showcasing one of the four components you talk about, the others not so much. But instead of downplaying visual design, I believe we should focus on emphasizing the other three.

Too often, people put “eye candy” and “functional design” (for lack of better terms) on opposite ends of the spectrum, as if something couldn’t both look good and work great.

Browsing Dribbble’s top designers, you’ll come across countless fantastic visual designers who also have an amazing product sense.

Not that there’s anything wrong with specializing in visuals. The world needs icon designs, 3D artists, letterers, and illustrators just as much as information architects, user experience designers, usability specialists, and product designers.

A Counter-Point

I’d also like to flip Paul’s argument on its head and suggest that maybe the solution is actually more Dribbble.

Let me explain: as the curator for Folyo, I’ve come across countless UX and Interaction Design portfolios that, to put it bluntly, suck: they’re often set in 12pt Arial on a grey background, and filled with ugly Comic Sans wireframes and unappealing walls of text.

No matter how good you are at interaction design or information architect, when I see a site that looks straight out of 1998 it’s hard for me to take you seriously.

Eddie Lobanovskiy, showing that there’s such a thing as a nice-looking wireframe

It’s actually the same problem as before, but in reverse: these designers are great at the first three components, but they choose to ignore the last one.

I’d argue that anybody fitting that description should immediately sign up for a Dribbble account: not only will they get a chance to learn visual design principles from the best, but they’ll also be able to share their own design knowledge with the Dribbble crowd, and maybe slowly tip the community in a more function-oriented direction.

Showcasing Function

The problem remains that function will always be harder to showcase than visuals. So what can be done?

I suggested a couple solutions in the second part of my comment:

For examples, more and more designers are posting animated GIFs on Dribbble to show the interaction layer. A lot of people are also posting on CodePen too, to show the final coded outcome of their work.
We can encourage those trends without making people who prefer working on pixel-perfect icons and beautiful lettering feel bad.

What’s more, there’s new design tools like Flinto and Macaw coming out every month, making it easier than ever to quickly create functional prototypes.

And on the front-end side, we recently saw a big shift from creating static, one-size-fits-all sites to reactive, responsive experiences that adapt to different environments.

Even fully functional apps are getting easier to code thanks to new tools and frameworks.


All this to say that as far as I’m concerned, the trend is firmly set towards more function, not less.

So if that’s what you mean by “Dribbblisation of design”, well then bring it on!