"Design For Dummies"

Ben Groulx
Jun 23, 2015
"Design For Dummies"

You are a designer; you can't not be designing, as every settlement and conclusion is design.

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We are all designers

I often hear a phrase that goes a little something like this: "I don't know anything about design, can't you just do it?" Or maybe sometimes, "I know you're the designer, but I want this thing here." It's a disconnection from being a designer, a removal of fault. But the truth is that we are all designers. Some of us do it professionally, some not, but we all make decisions. Whether you are designing a website, a poster, or your entire life, you have the power to plan and execute. And you don't need to be a professional designer to do that. You don't need to be a designer in order to make decisions, as we all have that ability.

You can't not be designing, as every settlement and conclusion is design. Every time you make a decision, you are designing. And anyone is capable of designing because everyone has the ability to make decisions.

The above quote is from a previous article I wrote, called Giving and Receiving Better Feedback In the Design Process (which you should read that before we go on). 

How to design as a non-designer

Everything can be learned. You may not see your yourself as a designer, so let's distance ourselves from that word for now. Let's use decision-maker. Still not comfortable with that? Well, let's take a look at what it means to make them.

Decisions are about rendering intent. Visual design is the same thing. By conveying a certain message or tone, or by helping you perform an action, design helps us make create a purpose and a goal. Think about making decisions like this:

What is required here?   ?  How can I solve it?

That's easy right? You determine the problem, and then you put on your puzzle-solving hat and come up a solution. Baby steps here: I want to communicate that I am angry, therefore I want going to write on paper, "I am angry." Problem solved! But… can we make this even more clear?

Have I solved this problem?   ?  Iterate!

You've rendered intent, but to make it even better, how about writing it in red, a colour of passion and heat? Iterating means never quite being satisfied. It's a continuous cycle of improvement and refinement. There are three things you can do to help with iteration:

  • Do your research.
  • Question everything.
  • Reduce the noise.

Do Your Research

Every decision should be an informed decision. How do you get informed? By doing your research. Good research requires good questions; it's equal parts coming up with which questions to ask, and about thinking critically about how those questions are answered. Every team member is capable of researching -- and if they don't know, they can learn. It's easy. Proper research will allow design decisions to come naturally, and will help in the long-term by saving costs and getting rid of the 'unknowns'.

Question Everything

Every item and elements and text content and image needs a purpose. If it has none, then rethink we you have it there in the first place. What is everything doing? Is your text informative? Does your image convey a tone that is crucial and in line with the whole? Question everything!

Reduce The Noise 

You've done your research, and everything within you design has a purpose… now cut the non-essential things out. Do you really need that background image? Is your. Try removing some of the clutter, and be sure to give everything enough room to exist. Reducing the noise also means merging; keep your variations to a minimum, such as using one or two typefaces at most, and  no more than a few colours.

 We all have the power to make decisions. Yes, even you. Don't distance yourself from design; instead, face it head on. By researching, questioning, and reducing, you can bring clarity to the decisions you've made, and your visual design and user experience will be improved. And that's all we can really shoot for betterment.

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