Lesson #3: Diverse Design is Good Design
Since breaking into the UI/UX design industry, I’ve worked as a product designer at well-known companies and grassroots organizations. One thing that has truly developed my eye for design throughout is working with a lot of different people.
It’s important to understand that design isn’t done in a bubble; it’s very much a team sport. I brainstorm with fellow designers and product managers, and explore constraints with front-end developers. I also work with a lot of the people who would use the products I design for.
For example, I play board games with a friend who is gray-scale colorblind and often bring the perspective of being color-impaired into my designs not only because of this experience, but also because I personally have trouble distinguishing color hues, so I can’t always tell when something is red or orange.
Designers bring their history, community, and perspective into products and companies and this is why it’s so important to have diversity at the forefront. I currently work on the curriculum team here at Designlab, and I appreciate the emphasis we place on diversity in design and diversity of opinion. Being a part of a diverse team helps us create truly useful, meaningful, and ethical products and curriculum.
3 Exercises to Help You Develop an Eye for Design
Hopefully those lessons have given you a little insight into how many of us can develop an eye for design, even if we don’t think we’re “creative”. You can also use the following exercises as a great reminder that design isn’t always making something completely new; design is being able to solve problems creatively. I picked these exercises up from my mentors over the years, and I continue to find them helpful, so I’m sure you will too!
Exercise #1: Study an app you’ve never used before
There is an app for everything, but not all apps are created equally. Thinking thoughtfully about the apps you use on a daily basis can help sharpen your eye for design.
Try this exercise out with an app you’re not familiar with:
- Open the App Store and select the App of The Day.
- Grab your writing instruments of choice, and organize a way to time yourself (your phone, Google Timer, an egg timer, etc.)
- For 1 minute, write down all of the reasons you do want to download the app.
- Then, for 1 minute, write down all of the reasons you do not want to download the app.
- Finally, for 3 minutes, write a reflection on who you think this app was made for, and how you think they’ll use it.
Hopefully this exercise helped you to notice the little things involved in design. (Design is in the details, afterall.)
Exercise #2: Practice prototyping with copywork
Copying is a valid, and effective, learning tool. Have you heard the phrase (or read the book) “steal like an artist”? The idea behind stealing like an artist is that nothing is completely original, and all creative work builds on what came before.
At Designlab, we massively encourage copywork when students are starting out in their UI/UX design learning journey. In UX Academy Foundations for example, students use copywork as a way to start understanding the nuances of visual design.
For this next exercise, you’ll need either Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD. (Learn these tools in our free 7-day email courses.)
In this exercise, you’ll use copywork to recreate a web page or app screen:
- Look for an app or site that you like. Then, take a screenshot of a web page or app screen, and paste it into your chosen design tool.
- Make a new frame/artboard/etc. in your design tool, and position it next to the screenshot.
- Grab the images from the screenshot (by either taking screenshots of the images involved, or seeing if you can right-click and copy the image itself).
- Find fonts that match the original as closely as possible. (Note that most fonts may be premium; look for free fonts that look similar to avoid spending hours on this step.)
- Proceed to recreate the web page or app screen as pixel-perfect as possible. Be sure to make all the forms, buttons, etc. on your own.
Once you’re happy with your copy, spend 15 minutes reflecting on what you learned through the exercise so you can utilize those learnings in future design work.
Exercise #3: Get out and observe user experience in the wild
One thing that we often don’t do enough as UI/UX designers is stepping away from the computer. Make sure to take a walk on a regular basis, and pay attention to all the little things you see along the way.
For example, you could go to your neighborhood park and wander around to see what you can find. Is there a map? Is there a trail? When you get to that park, do you have an idea of what you want to do?
The purpose of this exercise is to think about what is around us, for whom we think it is designed, and how things are used.
Some suggestions for outings and considerations:
- Your local park: how do kids know how to play with certain pieces of equipment?
- Art gallery: how do people who know nothing about art get around versus an art historian?
- Public transportation hub: how do you buy a ticket if you don’t speak the language?
The list goes on, but the important part is to stop and think about who interacts with this environment, how they do it, and why.
How to Start Building Foundational Design Skills Today
If you’re looking to develop an eye for design and transition your career into the world of UI/UX design, learning visual and UI design is the best way to start. With UX Academy Foundations, you'll work 1-on-1 with an expert mentor to learn key visual design concepts and practical skills. By the end, you'll be ready to apply to UX Academy, where you’ll obtain design skills across the full breadth of the UX design process.