Advice for developers getting into design

I joined the Aligned Pixels Slack channel a while back. “I’m a developer but want to get into interface (or web) design, how should I go about doing so?” turned out to be a fairly popular question on there. If that’s something you’ve been wondering about too, then Liam Campbell has some good bits of advice for you in his recent article, Work Is Better Than Talent:

Watch the designers you respect, and take notes. If you’re lucky, and you already work with an experienced designer, ask them questions. Explaining the thought behind a decision is another core design skill — one that any good designer will be happy to demonstrate. If you can find a mentor, that’s even better. An experienced designer can see things that you’re not yet equipped to see. Getting them to share their insight will help you grow.

That paragraph is a nice summary of the advice I usually give when asked. There’s one point in particular that I’ll stress from it: “An experienced designer can see things that you’re not yet equipped to see.”

The right perspective is crucial for creating designs that work well, and it’s definitely not something you’re born with. It’s something that’s developed over time by constant analysis and questioning, not just of digital interfaces but of the mundane everyday things too. That’s why I always recommend the aptly named The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman as a good starting point. It’ll change the way you look at things and make you question why such-and-such design decisions were made. Once you start questioning, you’ll start finding the cracks in a design. Once you find the cracks, you can start thinking about the best way to fix them.