How to do an Unsolicited Redesign That People Care About

My most important advice to aspiring designers

Jason Li
Published in
7 min readJun 4, 2018


When an aspiring designer asks me how to build their portfolio, I always say to redesign something and write about it.

Cue the groans and the “design is more than just how something looks”…

I know, I know.

Redesigns are often frowned upon because so many people do it wrong. But there’s a way to do them effectively. I’ve done quite a few redesigns of my own, and they’ve led to some of the most exciting opportunities I’ve come across in my career. I’ll share them, and my thought process, below.

Make it purposeful

Don’t just mindlessly dive into redesigning. Think about both your personal and design objectives before starting your project. What’s the best case situation that could come from this project?

First, what might the redesign achieve for yourself? Maybe you want to appear as a thought leader, build your portfolio, attract new contract opportunities, or get the attention of companies. All of these are valid reasons.

Second, how might the redesign be useful for the company? This can be many things, such as creating a more relevant visual brand, an improved user experience, a better converting website, or some other business objective. Just don’t fix something that’s not broken.

Left: Cyber Dust V1. Right: My Redesign

One of my first redesigns was shortly after graduating university. I had an accounting degree and almost no work to show. I knew I wanted to attract UX/UI design opportunities and needed to build my portfolio. This was my personal objective.

I came across Cyber Dust, an ephemeral messaging app backed by Mark Cuban. After exploring it, I felt that a lot of the user experience and all of the UI design can be executed better. With that design objective in mind, I redesigned some of the core pages in the app.