Welcome to our constantly updating Insight - Great Reading for Designers, Developers & Strategists (what EvenVision is Reading)
Our team at EvenVision is constantly reading articles on design, development, and strategy from sources throughout the web. We not only love to read and learn but love to share and empower those around us. Therefore we've decided to start compiling a list of all the valuable and actionable articles we've been reading.
First Principles for Product Design
Akar Sumset – Medium
Fantastic article that reviews Product Design, and the concepts accompanying the field. It’s as much a resource for design, marketing, and psychology as it is an attempt to compile key resources and related text that defines our current understanding of designing for user based solutions.
- Product Basics – Put users first and solve a need.
- Psychology & Social Psychology – Products persuade, trigger motivate and provide ability.
- Product Management – Measure to manage and improve.
- Design – Do not re-invent the wheel but design to solve problems.
- Brand Strategy – Understand and control the promise and then exceed it to delight.
“Remember, we are not designing things. We are designing behaviors”
How Fonts are Fueling the Culture Wars
Ben Hersh – Medium
Great article that talks about the power of typography. It reviews typography and a historically powerful tool that defines ideologies silently speaking louder than the words. The author does a beautiful job of explaining the cultural implications of typography and the value of properly executed construction. It’s as much a review of current times as it is a reflection on to past ideals told simply through a font. Beautifully well done.
“typography can silently influence: it can signify dangerous ideas, normalize dictatorships, and sever broken nations.”
Forget coding: writing is design’s “unicorn skill”
Katharine Schwab – FastCo Design
The unfortunate reality of life is that even the best ideas if poorly communicated sound terrible. This article does a great job address the true unicorn skill within design and that is simply the ability to write. It’s important to note though that those that can’t read wont be able to write. Reading is the core premise of how we ultimately write. Read to learn to write. Write to design. Write to solve. Write to imagine.
“A core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios…”
Why Human-Centered Design Matters
Dave Thomsen – Wired
This is a great little read that touches on the core premise of design. Design for humans. It talks at length about getting away from the desk and getting to be around the people that you’re actually designing for. It’s a lecture about the value of continual feedback but stresses that there is a need to ask the “right” questions and speaks to framing and problem-solving. But perhaps most importantly it addresses the concept of minimum viable product which is part of the world thanks to Eric Reis and his book The Lean Startup. It’s about agility, iteration, and the build-to-learn process. Highly recommend reading.
“Get out into the world and into the contexts that people are using your product – you’ll be surprised how quickly unexpected opportunitites are revealed.”
Color in UI Design: A (Practical) Framework
Eirk D. Kennedy – Medium
This author has crafted a fantastic piece that covers one of the most fundamental skills in UI Design, or really Graphic Design in general: the selection of color and it's variations. Often times we are limited to 1 color and are forced to make variations off of the color to accommodate interactive elements. Here the author has broken down some key concepts with regards to selection based on real world examples of shadow and light.
The key rules:
- Darker color variations = higher saturation + lower brightness
- Lighter color variations = lower saturation + higher brightness
“The fundamental skill of coloring interface designs is being able to modify one base color into many different variations.”
How to Write Like a Graphic Designer
Ben Noble – Medium
Writing is a skill that most of us take for granted. If you stop and think about the power we all have the ability to express ideas, tell stories, and communicate to other individuals complex or simple emotions it's truly one of the greatest assets we have. It's great then to see Design Thinking and Design Strategies become a valuable component of the writing experience. This author has done a great job summing up observations into Design and picked out key skills that Designers use daily which could benefit writers. However, we could probably argue that Design merely borrowed from writing, so it's more like a post-modern reflection than anything groundbreaking.
- Designers Hoard Inspiration
- Designers Sketch
- Designers Save Past Iterations
“Writers are eager to overwrite past work. We’re oblivious to our sources of inspiration. We like to believe that the first draft is the final version.”
Color Psychology In Branding: Industry Colors Explained [Infographic]
Irfan Ahmad – SocialMediaToday
The study of color psychology in branding is fascinating, but can often be misleading and full of generalizations. One beautiful aspect of this simple infographic by Towergate Insurance is that it attempts to move beyond basic sweeping commentary and attempts to contextualize the study of color to specific industries. By doing so this infographic does a great job of presenting information that is actually actionable.
That said, we at EvenVision will retain a healthy skepticism regarding color connotations and choose instead to approach color based on individual projects and individual needs.
“With 80% of visual information from logos coming from color alone, careful attention needs to be paid to the message that each choice is likely to convey to the viewer. ”
Questions to ask as a new designer on the team
Jason Cashdollar – Medium
This is a fantastic little article written by a Product Designer at Facebook and his experience with his first project. It was a simple task and one that he thought he had nailed, but it ultimately turned out he had missed some key aspects of working on a team and working as a designer which rendered his work a complete waste.
Fundamental commandments of teamwork:
- Build on the team's knowledge from previous projects
- Have a strong hypothesis
- Know what success looks like for the team
When working with a team it's crucially important to look back to look ahead. Design is about solving issues, but you need to know what they were, and what to look for in solving them. This article is full of excellent questions to consider when bringing onboard new members of any team.
“I wasted time playing in Sketch when I should have been asking questions about how we got where we are today. ”
Tips for Becoming a Design Leader
Andrew Lucas-Walsh – Medium
Becoming a leader isn't about waiting for a promotion. In the world of design, it's about initiative, humility, and craving to be better and do better. This article does a great job summing up the attitude required to push a company, to push the people around you and to grow and blossom through the trails and tribulations of life.
Key insights about design leaders:
- Drive discussions
- Drive initiatives
- Collaborate beyond your design team
- Seek feedback often
- Don't wait on anyone else
- Be vulnerable
These are skills that are developed over time as much as they are attitude based character qualities.
“Strong leadership from individual contributors (ICs) drives product development, and as a designer it’s the best way to develop in your career. In fact it’s the reason the IC and manager tracks are parallel, not sequential. Becoming a manager isn’t seen as a promotion, it just means you’re shifting your focus.”
Four Things Working at Facebook Has Taught Me About Design Critique
Tanner Christensen – Medium
Critique is an important aspect of design, development, and growth in general. Critique provides an opportunity to constructively build, test and adjust. It's often an element feared or something that people are weary of, but in truth, it should be something embraced, regularly practices and structured. This article does a fantastic job breaking down some key aspects of the critique experience that Facebook employees to move mountains.
Key elements of good critique:
- Establish clear roles - presenter, audience, facilitator
- Ensure everyone understands (and agrees on) the problem - craft a problem statement
- Focus on feedback, not criticism - objectively asking, building, cooperatively to improve
- Laptops (and phones ) stay closed - be here now to explore ideas in depth
“Critique should not serve the purpose of boosting the ego or agenda of anyone in the meeting.”
Unintuitive Lessons on Being a Designer
Julie Zhuo – Medium
You can learn from everyone, but it's ideal to learn by those that have experienced and produced the best of the best that can be. This is an article written by just that very person, and it's incredible how humbling her writing is. She speaks to lessons learned, of pride and it's negative impact on design, and to the reality of mindset. It's not a self-up, but an article written by a designer as a memoir of growth, the pains, and the positives. Design is a service if you make it one, but it takes time and dedication to hone it as a skill.
Key lessons learned:
- What looks like genius is actually the result of brute force.
- Developing your eye is the single most important skill to hone.
- To do things of great impact, you cannot be a lone wolf.
- You cannot evaluate a design without knowing its intention.
- If you don't want design to be treated as a service, you need to have an opinion about what problems are worth solving and way.
- Investing in your communication skills gives you a 2x multiplier on your effectiveness.
- Everyone feels like an imposter sometimes.
- Good design is obvious.
“What I’ve learned since is that design is the art of solving specific rather than abstract problems. If the problem is not clear or well-understood, you cannot begin to evaluate how effective the solutions are.”
How To Make Your Not-So-Great Visual Design Better
Jasmine Friedl – Medium
This article is written from the perspective of an experienced designer with the desire to help students new to the field learn great visual design. The author does an excellent job of breaking it down into a couple of simple-to-follow steps that anyone can implement. Her main point is that learning great visual design involves intentional time, practice and observation.
Key steps to becoming a great visual designer:
- Be intentional in observing the world around you - the physical world, apps, and websites.
- Form opinions on what you like and don’t like in what you see.
- Ask yourself why the designs you observe work or don’t work.
Although you won’t become a great visual designer overnight, if you take what you’ve observed, put it into practice, and think critically about what you have now designed, you will be well along the way.
“Being a good designer—being a good visual designer — requires intentionality.”
Getting Started in Content Strategy
Natalie Shaw – Medium
In many ways, content strategy is an old field, but in a like fashion it's had a renaissance of sorts and is starting to receive some much-needed limelight. More importantly, it's starting to be seen as a key component in designing a great product. Content strategy is finally receiving a place at the table beside Communication, and Product Design; as it focuses primarily on the type of communication and can help guide product design along a path towards success. Content strategy can be summed up as the responsibility for creating experiences that are clear, consistent and most importantly - compassionate.
“We maintain simple, straightforward and human language to talk to our community across all of our products, and to do this we get involved early on in the product design process.”
A Guide to Interviewing for Product Design Internships
Andrew Hwang – Medium
Now you may find it weird that EvenVision is featuring an Article based on how to interview for Internships, but if anything it's a perfect article for those looking to join our team, or those trying to understand who we are and what we are seeking to accomplish.
When we design a website we are in truth designing a product, a very specific type of product, but nonetheless a product that requires design. Product design is a combination of the following elements:
- Visual Design - Is the work aesthetically pleasing, polished, complete and whole?
- Interaction Design - is there intuitive user flowers from end-to-end? How does someone get from point A to point B?
- Product Thinking - what is the problem that we are trying to solve?
This article does a great job not only addressing topics for interviewing for an internship, but also for interviewing clients. Do not get caught in the weed. Do not assume. Ask questions. Understand what you're trying to solve and trying to accomplish and then start high and work yourself down to specifics. It doesn't matter so much the aesthetics of the website prior to completion, but that the systems built resolve issues and provide services. To say the least, while at first, this may seem like an odd article to feature here, it's, without a doubt, a brilliant addition to our list.
“One of your main tasks in the portfolio review is to show intentionality in your design process, to demonstrate that you thought through each design decision carefully, from the high-level product features to the visual styling of a button.”
“It’s a bummer that the implementation looks completely different than what we designed”
Fabricio Teixeira – Medium
This is a fantastic little insight into one of the biggest no-hire tells in the design industry. When you're looking at someone's portfolio and they comment that the final product looked nothing like they envisioned it's an attempt to distance themselves from responsibility. The problem is that if a design was executed poorly when taken to develop it's a reflection on the designer more so than the developer. Especially if the designer decided to feature this work in their portfolio - their best of the best.
At EvenVision is take an approach that distances ourselves from our competition. All of our designers need to not only be versed in design terminology and core basic fundamentals but also need to know the code their designs require for execution. Sure, it takes a lot longer to properly train an individual, but we end up with Designers that can design great digital products and developers who can easily execute and form beautiful products.
Designers need to accept responsibility for their work. From start to finish. A designer is the maker, the crafter, and the guide.
“We are entirely responsible for the products and experiences people use. That’s our job; it’s in our job title. Which means we are also responsible for the final product implemented by our teams.”
Affordance in user interface design
Avadh Dwivedi – Medium
This is a great introduction to the term "Affordance." In brief, an affordance is described as "all actions that are made physically possible by the properties of an object or an environment. The term came to prominence with American psychologist James J. Gibson, in his book "The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception." It was subsequently added to by Don Normal when he introduced the idea of "perceived affordance" in his book the "Psychology of Everyday Things."
That said, affordances is an important aspect of User Interface design and important consideration for us at EvenVision. It's the idea that objects can provide possibilities, and if designed properly, guide people along intuitive paths to achieve goals and desired actions. A button is a button is a button up until the time it's not. It's important that we design affordances that are not only perceptually accurate but also objectively sufficient for all users.
“Desired actions cannot be carried out if the object does not afford it, and afforded actions might not be carried out if the user does not perceive they are possible.”
Want to be Smarter? Learn to Say “I Don’t Know”
Zat Rana – Medium
This is a powerful principle. Especially as a designer going into client meetings with people who are as unique as their businesses. There are tons of situations, markets, and industries where we don't know everything, but because we have such a broad general knowledge from all these unique meetings it's easy to pretend like we do. And dangerous. If we make wrong assumptions we can seriously affect the outcome of a project, and the health of a business.
Fortunately, we always ask questions. We learn to follow up "I don't know" with "What do you think?", and "Why does this project/industry/business work the way it does?" And that's how we learn.
“It’s better to not have an opinion than to naively pursue someone else’s.”
A framework for measuring design maturity
Caio Braga – Medium
The article outlines basic principles for measuring the maturity of a company's relationship with design. The basic pillars of a design team's state (system, process, vision) serve as guides for how well a team is doing internally, and where they most need to grow. It'll be really interesting to see how our design team measures up by this standard, and what insights are gathered from the exercise.
“Nothing will be perfect — everything can be perfected.”
7 Techniques For Better User Experience Inspired By Walt Disney
Yuval Keshcher – Medium
This article outlines some of the best techniques pioneered by none other than the ultimate founder of user experience - Walt Disney. One thing that Disney did so beautifully was tell a story and leave people with a positive experience. In user experience design the ultimate goal is to provide an experience that successfully provides a user with accomplishment, ability, and simplicity. Give them an experience worth remembering, through a tale worth telling.
- It's mostly about first impression
- Write down your Hero's Journey
- Remember Your Audience
- ABC (always be cutting)
- Simplify it
- Look for Inspiration
- It's never going to be perfect
“As product people, we have the opportunity to deliver experiences that would be delightful and memorable — just like in Disney movies.”