The Way I Want To Be

A note from the author:

This is a list of things that describe the designer I’d like to be. It is written in the imperative mood because it is written as a note to self. I don’t mind if you peek over my shoulder and read them too.

  • Learn to appreciate the old discipline of graphic design. There are decades of old knowledge we’ve yet to uncover. Work to uncover it and adapt it to our new medium. New books are unproven and risky. Old books that have stood the test of time are books that are worth reading. Read significant books about design.
  • Learn about the craft of typography. Learn to apply the principles of print typography to the web. The web is made of words, so typography may the most important design discipline to learn.
  • Embrace the spirit of open source in your work. Do work in public. Ask for help. Build everything in modules. Integrate with the whole.
  • Elevate the role of design in your work. Design isn’t a lower skill. It’s the skill that empowers you to think like a user.
  • Try to be a hacker. Visual design is dead. Interactive design is just getting started. I don’t mean just animation design. I mean interactive design: the hacker’s design. This is that weird, experimental, design-aware hacking that pushes boundaries and embraces both design thinking and the power of the sharable web. Focus on animation, interactive design, and art in code. Experiment, prototype quickly. Don’t fear code.
  • Get to a whole new level of thinking. As you study people who are accomplishing incredible things, you’ll begin to notice that they think on a whole different level. They don’t read light articles. If they share words, they tend to share research papers or books. They aren’t satisfied with surface knowledge of their specialty—they go deep with it. The way to get to a whole new level of thinking? Read. Read difficult passages from writers who are at the level of thinking you wish to achieve.
  • Use other people’s work. So many problems in software have already been solved. Invent—don’t reinvent. Use established patterns and libraries. Your projects will be better, and your learning will soar as you study proven patterns. Build on top of these good patterns to solve problems that haven’t yet been solved.
  • Tooling isn’t the work, but it helps make the work. Stay excited about tooling, but keep it in perspective.
  • Loosen up. Have fun. Stay weird. Try something new.