Design Lessons: Introduction

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In my current workplace, I typically work in teams where there is one or more designers who create prototypes of a product on Figma, and then there are developers that bring those prototypes to life and also add all the logic and functionalities. As an Android developer in my current work place, I work on translating the mobile designs into Android code; frontend devs translate the web designs. This pattern of work and division of labor is real soft work.

Prior to working in this sort of team, as a solo dev, I normally winged the whole design, changing layouts as I went along and as I saw fit at each point in time. It was terrible working like that, because of the following reasons:

  1. Writing code to create layouts and running them on a device to see how it looks is a long process. It is longer and more painful when you only have a vague idea of what you want. Now imagine you are a beginner and also have a vague understanding of the platform you are working with. It is excruciating.
  2. It makes you fixated on the device or platform you are working with (Android and Android studio in my case), making it difficult to see the bigger picture about your product.
  3. Your platform also limits you because in order to avoid the pain or delay in (1) above, you tend to fit the design to the platform, instead of aiming to use the platform to bring something already imagined to life.

Now that I have seen the light, seen how product design can be separated from implementation, how design can take its own process, I feel crippled. Several times, I would think of a personal project to work on, and then start to wonder who will do the designs for me so that I can implement. But the design process is actually a critical part of the whole project and I feel like if there is something that should be outsourced, it has to be the implementation.

Therefore, today I decided to start learning design, from the fundamentals (including changing my perception of what design is) to the practical (in my case, creating designs for mobile and web experiences).

I expect it to be a slow and gradual journey. I am starting with the Figma Learn Design resources. As I go along, I will be writing down notes here in my public diary. I have a project upfront which prompted me to embark on this journey, but I will not talk about (or even think about) it now. However, I will mention one pet project which I hope to do, and that is to re-design some personal websites that I maintain including this present website and this other one, and to improve their user experience on mobile phones.

Two design concepts that I expect to get practical understanding of are empathy and storytelling; they are things that I have found to be very important. This makes me sure that I should have started learning design much earlier. Fortunately, today is the next best time to start it, so cheers to a new and exciting adventure!

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