Nine Ways to Tell Your Design Story on Medium

A primer for designers

At a time when design can be the difference between a product that delights millions of users or fails to attract consumers, the appetite for stories about design has never been bigger.

Good design writing on Medium has a lot in common with good writing on the platform, period. Medium rewards authenticity, first-person storytelling, and the sharing of ideas and expertise from those who might not be considered professional writers. But successful design writing also has some unique characteristics:

  • It’s candid. It’s not afraid to talk about failure or show prototypes early, unfinished, or broken.
  • It’s personal. It doesn’t use one experience to extrapolate for all users.
  • It’s realistic. It doesn’t ignore the realities of what it takes to ship a product — research, testing, iteration, company dynamics. (Hint: Don’t write about “redesigning” Amazon unless you worked there.)
  • It’s interactive. It involves its readers to build on and advance ideas.

Once you’ve decided on an idea, there are a few simple steps you can follow to go from draft to published story — and ensure that your piece has maximum impact:

  1. Share it with a friend or colleague. Everyone can use an editor. Just as with design, editorial feedback from the right person at the right time is crucial. Medium makes it easy to collaborate: Send the link of your draft to your chosen reader, who can leave notes on your story.
  2. Pick images of the appropriate size. Stories with images generally get shared more frequently than those without. Refer to Medium’s guide to images to select ones that are correctly sized. And make sure that the thumbnail image works for sharing on social media.
  3. Keep it interesting. Avoid long paragraphs of prose in favor of shorter bursts, and include wireframes or embeddable media to add visual interest. Play around with Medium’s formatting tools to make your story look great.
  4. Write a snappy headline. Be specific enough to provide context about the story, but don’t give it all away. “How” or “why” headlines can make your readers feel like they’ll be made smarter by reading your post — just be careful not to overuse (or oversell) it.
  5. Put in the work. Our data reveals that effort yields results, so take the time to craft and polish your story.
  6. Make it discoverable. Tag your story to make it easier to find. Choose up to three tags that best describe your post, with at least one that is general (“Design”) and one more specific (“Typography”).
  7. Engage with your audience. If someone responds to your post, be sure to recommend and highlight it to show your appreciation. Respond back with your own thoughts to create a dialogue. And don’t forget to share your post on social media.

There are so many examples of successful design writing on Medium. Here are just a few that exemplify how you can use the platform.

I. Share your knowledge

You have a wealth of expertise and experience that readers would find of interest. Facebook product design director Julie Zhuo regularly writes on topics like design process, management, common mistakes, and more:

Pasquale D’Silva explains designing for animation:

A group of designers from leading tech companies collaborate to share best practices, lessons, and stories:

II. Reveal your process

Give readers a peek behind the curtain with insight into how their favorite products were made. Vanessa Koch, who worked on the resdesign of Asana, provided insight into the process:

III. Announce a feature or product

Press releases are passé; instead, many designers write Medium posts to showcase new features or products. When Foursquare underwent a redesign and launched Swarm, Sam Brown and Zack Davenport revealed their design thinking in announcing both:

IV. Solve a problem

Show how design can be used to solve a problem. Shortly after Caitlin Winner arrived at Facebook, she noticed that the “friends” icon didn’t adequately represent both women and men. So she redesigned it:

V. Engage with your audience

While you can always broadcast your ideas on Medium, the real value is its network — the ability to interact with your readers to advance thinking. Jennifer Daniel, Erika Hall, Mike Monteiro, and others launched Dear Design Student to solicit and provide advice:

VI. Promote your company’s design talent

Competition for designers has never been fiercer. Showcase your company’s design bench with a dedicated publication, like Facebook’s, Uber’s, and (naturally) Google’s design teams did:

VII. Write ‘non-design’ design stories

You can write about design without writing about the design process. Medium designer Marcin Wichary goes deep on typography and language:

Basecamp founder Jason Fried does design criticism — of the Drudge Report:

VIII. Relate to adjacent fields

Design doesn’t exist in a vacuum, of course. Designers work closely with engineers, researchers, user support, product scientists, content strategists, and others to craft their products. Andrei Herasimchuk is just one of the many designers who’s written about whether designers should learn to code:

Khosla Ventures’s Irene Au explains how designers work effectively with management:

IX. Adapt a speech

Many designers give talks at conferences like SPAN across the country and around the world. You can easily adapt your speech and publish it on Medium, like Google designer Rachel Garb did.

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