Nine Rules to Design By
1. Be aware of / interested in a broad range of things
The beauty of being a designer is that the content and context of your work is never the same and always changing. Your client could just as well be a banker as a rapper and your ability to transition and adapt will be enhanced by your familiarity with the industry or discipline as well as your integrity and open mind. You are not expected to know everything but the commitment, curiosity and research you put into each one of your projects will determine your excellence as a designer.
2. Never think you don’t have anything more to learn
Take nothing for granted and learn to question what you know. The extinction of your career as a designer will be the morning you wake up feeling like you have nothing left to learn. New ideas can be applied to old territories and codes, medias and habits can be challenged. With the technologies we work with advancing so rapidly there are new solutions and methods being introduced everyday. Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone and stay hungry for change.
3. Ask for feedback but never depend on it
Mark Kingsley says, “Doubt is the designer’s constant companion”. Designers, like most makers, seem to live in the fear that they aren’t coming up with the best answer to the challenge they are faced with. Self-critique isn’t easy and seeking the opinion of designers and non-designers on your work can direct you when you’re lost. But I stress that you should make, trust and defend your own opinions because if you aren’t able to do this you loose your freedom to create and evolve.
4. Spend time away from your workspace and when you do, be an active observer.
Most notable designers agree hard work is the number one factor that got them where they are. There are things to come to terms with if you choose design as your career path, like a relentless commitment to long hours of work that will more likely be compensated by high levels of satisfaction than high pay checks. But, although easier said than done, getting away from your desk and staying in touch with the place you live, people you love and non-design related things you enjoy doing, will benefit your design. Take advantage of this time off to be on: look around, notice patterns, take photos, and observe people’s behaviors.
5. Justify the elements you include in your work and if you can’t, consider their removal.
It’s hard for a designer to begin a design project but it may be even harder to know when to stop. We know less is more but we easily get caught up in making edits and adding elements to our work. If an element in your design doesn’t clearly improve the final product will fulfill, get rid of it. The elements that have no purpose are crowding your design, interfering with the elements that actually need to be there and may be reduced down to decoration.
6. Get to know your audience and the basic human motives
A designer differs from an artist in that a designer’s work takes form based on the needs and desires of a defined audience. Define your audience and get to know what they want, what they need and what they long for. Get to know them better than they know themselves so you no longer need to ask them what they want, you can tell them what they want. An effective designer must be able to relate to common human motives such as our desires to feel good and look good, our fears of loss and infidelity, our desires to be challenged and stimulated.
7. Don’t be a snob
OK, you make cool-looking stuff, your ideas are occasionally clever, and maybe you can code. What you claim to be good taste and good design does not make you superior to your colleagues, client or audience. The more elitist you become the less accessible your designs will become.
8. You don’t have a “personal style”
I’ve heard designers complain about incompatibility with their personal style and what the client was looking for. You can have your own process and aesthetic preferences but your personal style is essentially irrelevant because the client, audience and context should govern the "style" of a design.
9. Define the reaction you want your work to elicit
Remarkable design engages viewers and users in a profound way. Good design will elicit a strong response, whether it be surprise, shame, anger or comfort. Acknowledge the reaction you want your work to elicit, then proceed to design with your head and with your heart.