How to become a better designerby@askwhale
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How to become a better designer

by WhaleMarch 30th, 2017
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<a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Kathy Zheng, Designer at GitHub</strong></a>

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Learnings from GitHub, Stripe, and Playbook designers

Kathy Zheng, Designer at GitHub

Q: “How do you get to the point where your design is refreshing, intuitive, innovative, and comes naturally?

This relies on your diligence and patience, being able to stick to learning, and your ability to ask the right questions. If you want to improve your visual skills, it makes sense to mimic existing work so that you can build taste, aesthetics, and a higher baseline for what is pleasing and delightful.

If you want to improve how you think about product and your product design, you should ask why. You should learn the process around identifying problems, exploring potential solutions, determining how you measure whether your solution has failed or succeeded, and how you can move forward once you learn that. You have be constantly learning how to talk to the people you’re designing for and how you can distill insights from their narratives.

Jared Erondu, Designer and Startup Advisor

Q: “What’s the best way for young designers to hone their craft?”

The best way to hone anything is repetition. You just keep doing it until it becomes muscle memory. Whether that’s at a startup, an agency or a large tech company, it really doesn’t matter.

Speaking from personal experience, I took the startup route, and there’s a lot of benefits to that. You’re so close to the customer that you have to really understand what you’re trying to solve for them before you design anything. Most startups fail, so you also learn how to understand that failure is just part of life.

At an agency, you can learn some of these skills too. Agencies teach designers how to not get too attached to their ideas because a lot of them get thrown away. Even the ones that are accepted are mostly not implemented.

At large tech companies, you learn how to refine your process because they’re making sure that people can actually understand it and do it well. So choose whichever path you want, but at the end of the day, it’s repetition. Understand what a designer’s process is and do that multiple times until it becomes embedded in you.

Maddie Simens, UX Designer at Stripe

Q: “What are your top tips for a strong UX Design portfolio?”

Make sure the UX of the portfolio is good. It should be easy to view on mobile devices and that someone can find your contact information quickly. It sounds easy and you can take it for granted, but if you do it wrong, it really discredits work in your portfolio.

Go for quality over quantity. It’s better to have a few, really good, in-depth case studies instead of a lot of product shots. Try to show your process, not just the final product. Explain the decisions and explorations that got you there and what you might have done differently on the project.

Try to use real work as much as possible, whenever possible. If you have to do an unsolicited design to fill out your portfolio, try your best to first understand the decisions and constraints those designers were working under, and work backwards from there.

These Q&As were transcribed from Whale videos. Download Whale 🐳 for iOS to expand your knowledge or watch more on our website.

Add me on Whale! Username: pifafu_Video Q&A by kathy (design @ github & pokémon dweeb)

Add me on Whale! Username: erondu_Video Q&A by Jared Erondu (Product Designer and Startup Advisor)

Add me on Whale! Username: maddiesimens_Video Q&A by Maddie Simens (UX designer. Just a kid from Cleveland.)