As designers we are constantly presented with new information, new ideas, new methodologies, and new paradigms of user engagement.
While this is exciting, it can be exhausting trying to keep track of everything you need to know in order to design a successful product for your users.
Today I’m sharing with you some of the best pro-tips that I have compiled over the last decade of my experience in the wild world that is the design industry.
Pro-tip #1: Always work from general to specific
You wouldn't worry about checking the time if you were on board the sinking Titanic. You wouldn’t worry about filling up your gas tank if you didn’t own a car. So why would you work on specific parts of an application or design fragments that have little to no real context?
This is a huge problem that I see these days where we get excited as designers to test out an idea, which then quickly morphs into an entire project that is created without any context whatsoever.
The problem is that good design doesn’t live in our heads, it lives in our users’ heads, an its up to us to figure out what they consider good design.
The best way to do this, is to work from general to specific, from broad-strokes to fine details, and from high-level overviews with context and data, to user flows, mockups, and supporting documentation that outlines the how of the user experience, interface, and/or interactions.
Pro-tip #2: Always make sure that your SVGs are real
Every now and again I will save a document as an SVG that has no business rendering any part of it as a raster-based image, but by God it will do it anyway, even if raster-based saving is turned off.
Therefore, it is crucial that you always check your SVGs to make sure that they don’t contain any pixel or raster data that would contaminate your vectors, and render like crap on larger screens when scaled.
Pro-tip #3: Making it “pop” is almost always a matter of visual contrast
If someone tells you to make it pop, it generally means that whatever you’ve designed does not have enough contrast for their brain to consider it a high-order or high-relevance object or element.
To fix this, punch up the contrast in value, saturation, hue, size, or position to create enough visual differentiation to ensure that people know both what your element is and what it means.
Pro-tip #4: Assume Nothing, Ask Everything
I’ll bet you $100 right now that if you assume something that you’re not sure about, its gonna come back to bite you.
Anytime you have questions, it is way better to be safe than sorry; ask a boatload of questions until you have the information that you need to make informed, conscious design decisions.
Pro-tip #5: Make absolutely sure you (and your client) understand the design problem fully
Another huge problem that I see is that designers will more often than not plunge directly into design work at a client’s behest without fully understanding the problem that the client is up against.
As a designer your job is not only to create works that solve a client’s design problem, but to help your clients understand their specific design problem in the first place.
Many times your clients may think they need one thing, when in fact they may truly benefit from having something entirely different, and as a good designer it is up to you to advise them accordingly to the best of your ability.
Pro-tip #6: Don’t skimp on research
I see so many designers do this these days and its normally due to one of two issues:
- The designer has not been trained how to properly conduct research
- The designer does not have the budget to properly conduct research
In both cases it will almost always come back to bite the designer, the team, the organization, and/or the client if at least a bare-minimum of preparatory research hasn’t been done to determine need, determine design intent, and real target audience.
Listen, I get it: its tempting to skip it. Research can be tedious, it can be expensive, and it can be time-consuming. That said, there is no better way to ensure your design will actually land well then to research your audience preemptively, build empathy, and understand what they really, truly need.
Pro-tip #7: Raise your prices
I see a lot of designers do this to their own peril. If you find yourself surrounded by people who are only willing to pay $100 for a logo,
GO. SOMEWHERE. ELSE.
Go where the competition is higher, go where the demand is higher, go where the prices are higher and where profits can be leveraged more effectively.
If you set up shop where the demand is low, and sell to a low-demand audience, you’re never gonna make any real money.
Don’t lower your prices, raise your expectations of yourself. Don’t wait on better client opportunities, go out and get them!