I’ve recently started talking to some designers at Moat — Vince Li and Josh Turk (Spelling?) [head of design at Moat] — and they’ve been giving me some really good insight into design at a big company as well as tools for myself to use. I’ve been working on the frontend Analytics engineering team, however, because of the size of the company, we do not do any design work. I’ve taken a liking to talking to designers to see what’s going on with their projects and any tips they might have for starting designers.
One of the pieces of advice that I’ve picked up at Moat and specifically with design is from Steve Jobs when he says: “Stay a beginner”. The premise of this is great for design but applies to many different aspects of life. It is the idea that you should remain constantly questioning and relearning. If you approach a problem as a beginner every time, you are bound to find improvements and issues with the current design.
I talked to Vince extensively about what tools he uses on a day to day for his designing. I mentioned to him that I wanted to get more into natural/organic designs like freehand with more intricate details. He uses the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium and now uses it instead of a mouse. He highly recommends it for what I want to do, but he said that since the entry price is quite steep, it might be more economical to buy an iPad Pro. He let me use Moat’s iPad Pro since the design team hasn’t really gotten around to using it, and it’s been a really neat experience. I’ve been able to play around with some pretty cool apps and I’m currently debating if I can justify the also insanely high price. I’ll give it a couple weeks to see if I’m just going through a hype phase.
Useful Design Tools
“Spotlight” - Sketch Plugin: Runner
“Google Fonts” - Batch Download Common Fonts: Blog Post on This
“Laws of UX” - Good design guidelines: lawofux.com
Josh worked freelance for about a year and talked about how it’s different from a 9-5 job. He said that working as a designer in isolation is one of the hardest things about it. There’s no one to bounce ideas off of, brainstorm, or even give feedback on your work. He also recommended that freelance work, in general, should be intended to build a consistent stream of work. All too often, you can fall into the trap of building for many different clients with small tasks as opposed to building up a solid relation to a handful (he said about four) brands doing long term work. It’s better when you know the company you’re designing for well and it’s much more rewarding seeing the problem and solution play out over long periods of time. I’ll definitely keep it in mind moving forward seeing as freelance is something that I can imagine myself doing in the future.
Because of my current project at work and what I’ve experienced talking to designers recently, I really want to build my own design system/pattern/toolkit. Initially I wanted to build my own design system using the atomic design method — building buttons, fonts, icons, inputs, etc. that serve as atoms. These atoms then get stacked into molecules, which then stack into organisms, then templates, then finally to pages. It’s a really neat concept and I really want to do it eventually, but because I’m juggling 3 projects (with deadlines) and work right now, I just don’t think I’ll have the hours to devote to it. A more feasible endeavor would be a design pattern, a frontend framework, or a design toolkit — just a way of standardizing the way my buttons, headers, labels, icons, etc. look. Here are a couple of good reference examples:
- BlueprintJS - “React-based UI Toolkit”
- Pattern Lab — An atomic design system
- Bootstrap — Frontend framework
- Lightning Design - Salesforce’s Design System
- Google Material Design - Google’s Design System
- Lost My Name Design System - A great, clean React-based design system
- Semantic UI React - A Reactified component library
And here are some useful articles on how to make your own:
- How to construct a design system - Useful for how to begin from scratch