Arun Agrahri

@arunagrahri

Design Inspirations for Non-Designers

Ten years ago, I had set a goal for myself to do a different job every four years. I’m an engineer by training, so I started my career as a software developer. Four years later, I started my first venture-backed company. The next four years, I spent a lot of my time building great engineering teams. Before you guess what’s next for me, I’m not trying to do product design next. But to my designer friends here, appreciate any feedback for our web and mobile app.

It started about a year ago when I left my previous company to start my second startup. This time, I’m leading the product and business side of the company as CEO. To deliver the story, I prepared a slide deck for our vision and made initial product sketches. I always had a penchant for great product and design. But I knew my sketches weren’t close to how I would want them to look in the final product. So, I started meeting designers to take it to the next level.

After few coffee meetings, I learned a lot from those conversations. I also realized it was hard to communicate my vision when collaborating for few hours a week. I had two options, hire a dedicated design resource or learn to do the early design myself. I chose the later. With the help of my design friends in my network, I was able to get started with basic design process and tools. The sketch tool came up in several conversations with a strong recommendation. I played with it and found it a lot less intimidating of a tool than Photoshop or Illustrator. Sketch has fewer features but it’s pretty much all you need to create high fidelity product designs.

From a product perspective, good product design is no longer a core differentiator but it’s a requirement. Building great product is an iterative process. The process includes research, user study and implementing best practices. Often, they’re inspired by other great product designs.

Rest of this post outlines my design process that I follow to build the early version of the products. This is a guide for non-designers to build their early prototypes with good user experience.

Style Guide

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Color_star-en.svg

Once you’re ready with your product sketches, you will need to define a color palette and choose a font family. Color in design is very subjective. What evokes one reaction in one person may evoke a very different reaction in someone else. Sometimes this is due to personal preferences or cultural background. Knowing color associations helps. This is a great resource on how to choose colors for your startup with examples.

Color theory is a science in itself and it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a design background. A simpler approach is to follow 60–30–10 rule. Which suggests that you choose three different colors and use them in the ratio of 60%, 30% and 10%. This rule provides a simple way to create a professional color scheme for your brand.

Next is fonts. Choosing a font is important for your brand but don’t sweat it too much. It’s an easy product change if you decide to change your font. Picking a font depends on your product but an easy to read font like Roboto, Helvetica Neue, Open Sans is a good start.

Next is typography — the style and appearance of texts. You need to define font-size, font-weight, color for each type of text in your product. For example, a Medium post has a title, quoted and highlighted text, each with different style guides.

Tools for Design Inspirations

After you have finalized the style guides, you’re ready to start creating high fidelity screens. I recommend Sketch design tool. Protip: If you know a designer, get a quick primer from them. This is the best way to learn the best practices and avoid common mistakes. Otherwise, you can get started yourself. There are plenty of online guides and blog posts. Check out this profile, if you’re not sure where to start.

For any app screen design, I start with the product spec. I then do the market research on similar and inspiring product designs. For this, I use a combination of tools to find how other apps solve similar design challenges. Collect relevant design inspirations from your research. Finally, put your thoughts into a polished user interface and ship it to developers.

Protip: Don’t waste time creating design specs using Sketch plugins, it still takes time. Use tools like Zeplin. The tool makes it easy to collaborate and ship design specs.

Newsletters for Everyday Inspirations

There is no shortage of new content. Thousands of new design blog posts are written every day. We’re all familiar with Newsletters. Newsletters are mini publications, curated by experts and enthusiasts on a focused topic. I like Newsletters, and it’s how I keep up with topics that matter to me. So, I dug the web and built a list of great design blogs for every day learnings and inspirations.

Take your time to review, and subscribe to those that you like. If you want to keep them organized, don’t miss out on the last part of this article. You can check out my profile on Nucleus for an example.

I hope you find this list useful and it helps you get daily design inspirations. Here is the list in no special order.

Web Designer News: Web Designer News — A curated collection of the best news for designers each day.

Web Design Newsletter: Packed with quick bits of news, inspirational resources as well as cool new products and services for designers.

The UX Newsletter: Tales of researching, designing, and building from Mailchimp.

UX Weekly: A weekly user experience newsletter on user experience design, game design, and tech industry critique.

Sidebar: Get 5 best design links, every day.

Muzli: A short bundle of the most popular & inspiring stuff in the passing week.

Design Weekly: Digital product design news, articles, showcases and resources.

Invision: Thoughts on users, experience, and design — InVision Blog

Designmodo: Get our products/news earlier than others.

Design Startup Digest: A weekly list of UX, strategy and design articles to help you create smarter and more successful products.

That’s all! Did I miss any good design newsletter? Let me know.

❤ Please hit recommend if you found this post useful.

✨ Follow me on Twitter to be notified when I release my next story — “Design Tools for Non-Designers” and more.

More by Arun Agrahri

Topics of interest

More Related Stories