Sucking Less at Visual Design

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 2.54.26 PMMy design experience is mostly from working on product strategy and UX design as opposed to final pixel UI and visual design. So mostly looking at what a thing can do and how. Not so much exactly what it looks like. Whenever working on design my work usually stops at wireframes or sometimes mock-ups made from existing page elements. From there it is mostly a case of iterating through design in the code with the developers.

But I have been spending time doing some “last mile” design lately. My goal is not to be a UI designer, I don’t have the patience for that anyway. As with most other things I would just like to suck less at it.

My reasons for getting better:

  • Better at working with the developers I work with
  • Better at working with designers once I get back into that (working with actual teams)
  • Able to get from the wireframes where I’m comfortable, to designs that can be confidently handed off to a developer
  • Ability to create better prototypes. I work with a goal of being able to crank out acceptable prototypes or MVPs of products in a week.

My process for idea to prototype:

  • Sketch out a quick Lean Canvas of who has what problem that can be fixed how?
  • A list of high level user tasks in a flowchart to identify any important sequencing issues
  • Rough paper sketches that capture the core of the user actions required organized as a storyboard
  • Wireframes that add any other page elements needed like navigation, login, images etc.
  • Everything organized on a layout grid in Sketch. Sketch is powerful enough for my limited abilities, and simple enough that I can make progress without ending up in that terrible I-want-to-scratch-my-eyes-out place where Photoshop usually lands me.
  • I pick a color scheme and a font. Or rather, I try not to pick anything by just going with the same ones for everything I build.
  • The murky bit, where I move things around until they look all right…

I’m still experimenting with those last few steps to make sure it all adds value and doesn’t end up with me staring at some pixels all day claiming that “I’m designing”. Like everything else, I need to design to get better at designing. And that requires accepting what sometimes feels like a staggering level of incompetence to get to those time where I can see that things suck a little less than they used to.


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