Category Archives: Design

The Personal Process of Choosing the Right Design Tool

Every chef has their favorite tool. Mine happens to be a wooden spoon I’ve had since forever. I call it “Suzie” (because I’m a weirdo). Some people actually keep their wooden spoons in the family for generations – talk about a collector’s item!

Today, I’m going to share some tips on how the tools you select as a designer can help improve your creative process, and aid you in creating work you can really stand behind.

You’ve Gotta Have Standards

Do you know why so many chefs and cooks prefer wood over other materials? Well, it’s much the same reason many designers prefer Macs and software by Adobe: it’s the industry standard and using it makes your life easier in more ways than one.

Now before you say it, I know there are plenty of professional designers who are perfectly happy running Gimp or other non-standard software on a PC or Linux computer. And their work is just as awesome and up to par as any “Mac person’s.” But, for many designers, the benefits of having a standardized way to communicate with clients, other designers, and/or other departments outweigh the little idiosyncratic advantages of marching to your own drum.

wooden cutlery selection

Something else to remember – which might seem insignificant at first, but bear with me – is that you have to consider the technological “culture” into which you’ll be entering as a designer. This applies a bit more to in-house designers than freelancers, although freelancers working for a long-term client may experience the same thing.

My last in-house job was in a PC environment, and there was quite a strong anti-Mac sentiment among my peers. They “tolerated” me propping up my MacBook Pro on my desk alongside the office PC, but they definitely made their feelings clear. I thought it was funny, but a more sensitive person might have gotten their feelings hurt.

People can get mighty serious about their tools. And, as many of you out there have probably noticed, it can get ugly if you’re not careful. If you are totally in love with your tools and wouldn’t consider changing them for the world, by all means stick with them.

But if your peers or clients have a different opinion, be prepared to put up with a lot of their ranting and raving. And preaching and lecturing. And complaining and… yeah. You get the idea.

The Forest For the Trees

Nothing makes you feel like a “Real Chef” like gripping the handle of a huge, weighty, wooden spoon. It may seem a bit cliché, but I encourage you to try it the next time you’re in the kitchen. You can thank me later. Cooking enthusiasts, like designers, can get pretty hardcore about their wooden spoon choices.

Some people look for spoons that can handle stirring all the ingredients in the pot with ease. Others look for good scraping ability – the ability to remove food off the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t get stuck. And of course, you have to have a spoon you can use to taste your food while it’s cooking.

wooden cutlery selection

The debate on which wooden spoons handle all three of these tasks the best is endless, fierce, and sometimes a little scary. But enough about that. Consider your own tools as a designer. If you’re a pro, or aspiring to be, odds are decent that you use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, or a combination of all three. Why do you use these programs? Well, like I said, they are the industry standard. Being able to communicate ideas in a standard format across different people’s systems is an extremely valuable asset.

But there are other factors to consider as well. Believe it or not, some professional designers get by just fine using software that competes with Adobe on factors like price, interface preferences, and software size and speed. As powerful as a program like Photoshop or Illustrator may be, a lot of times you just don’t need all that power.

Some designers might actually be better off trimming down to something sleeker and less clunky. I’m an Adobe user myself, but, well…sometimes, for certain projects, Sketch does the job just fine. I’m totally serious.

Beyond The Pale

Alternatives to Adobe software are plentiful, and they are used every day by pro designers. Some are free and open-source, others are web-based, and others may have a simpler or more familiar interface. Again, there are many reasons a designer might choose a non-standard tool, many of which may not be immediately obvious.

Web-based software might be perfect for frequent travelers, for example, while a more familiar interface might increase a designer’s speed tenfold. If you happen to be in the market for alternative software, do your research and figure out what your number one priorities are.

Now Leaving Digitopolis

But wait! Computers may be the fastest and most efficient tool to use, especially in the world of web design, but you know what? Sometimes you don’t want to be fast and efficient. Sometimes you want to let a design simmer slowly over a low fire, stirring it occasionally with your spoon until all the flavors meld together in an exploding cacophony of deliciousness.

What I mean with all the food metaphors (besides the fact that I might just be really hungry) is, perhaps you’re one of those designers who think better off the computer than on it. Computer screens are made up of billions of little glowing pixels, and staring at one for hours on end can be draining on not just your eyes, but your creativity as well. Paper and other non-digital surfaces don’t have that problem.

There are plenty of designers – yes, even web designers – who take the hand-crafted approach to assembling their work. Paper, cloth, yarn, and yes, even food, can be used as tools in your design arsenal. Canadian designer Marian Bantjes, for example, continues to create a stir with her unique designs that feature sugar, tinfoil, fake fur, glitter, flowers, and other unconventional materials.

wooden cutlery selection

Choose Your Weapon

Remember, choosing the right tools, just like choosing the right wooden spoon in the kitchen, is a completely personal process. You can listen to someone else rave about the wonders of one tool versus another, but at the end of the day, it’s just a tool.

The decision is yours and yours alone, and a tool can only go so far in helping you with your working process. It can’t create the work for you, nor can it improve any weaknesses you have in terms of technical skill or design sensibility.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eschewing the computer, even if it’s only for a little while, in favor of a more experimental approach. The great thing about experimenting is that you can take bits and pieces of the stuff that worked and add it to your regular design process to put a new spin on things.

So, if you really want to play around with paper and scissors and glue for your next project, go for it. As long as you solve the problem put in front of you by your client, it won’t matter how you got there. Your client will most likely be impressed by your individuality and willingness to take risks, which, if you play your cards right, could lead to more challenging and higher-paying work in the future.

So dig around in the toolbox. Try them all. See what works best for you, and what will become your own personal “wooden spoon” standard for finding solutions to design problems.

For the record, though, a heavy, olive-wood spoon with a long handle and a rounded bowl (not too large) is as close to cooking tool heaven as you can get. According to this cook, that is. Bon appétit!

What Do You Think?

Do you have an opinion on tools and which work best for you? Or, y’know, which wooden spoon you like? Either way…

The post The Personal Process of Choosing the Right Design Tool appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

Source: Speckyboy

When It Comes to Ideas, It’s All About Presentation

When I was a student in design school, I once did an assignment for a teacher who made us stand up and present our projects to the entire class. Now I’m not the best public presenter, and as a teenager in college, I was even worse. After I fumbled through my presentation, my teacher pulled me aside and said that I’d had the best ideas out of everyone in the class, but gave the worst presentation.

I was too shy, and I didn’t inspire any confidence in my audience. My presentation had no “pop,” and thus it was boring and forgettable. I earned a disappointing grade as a result. As a professional designer, I’ve since had it reinforced again and again that, when it comes to ideas, it’s all about how you present them. A good presentation can force people to take your ideas more seriously and assign more value to them.

Dress Your Ideas For Success

Here’s a sad but true fact: people are much more likely to be interested in your work if you “dress it up” nicely. If something is presented poorly, it will be perceived that way, regardless of its actual value. If you’re uncomfortable presenting your ideas and selling a client on them, take classes and read books on presentation and public speaking.

It might be awkward, but the effort you put into presenting your ideas and making a genuine connection with people is going to make the difference between an obscure designer and a breakout superstar.

Technical craftsmanship counts as well. Don’t cut corners. Spend the extra time to make your design as crisp and perfect as possible. I know people say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. But I say that the sloppy is the enemy of the great. When you were younger, your parents probably told you to “dress for success.” That’s true not just for your appearance, but for anything you create which represents you professionally.

Anything that has your name attached to it also carries the strength of your reputation on its back. Don’t unknowingly develop a reputation for shoddy, third-rate work.

Gotta Have A Gimmick

There’s a classic musical number in the 1962 film Gypsy, about burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, in which young Rose is educated about the key to burlesque success by her fellow strippers. It’s obviously meant to be funny (and it is), but there’s a powerful marketing tactic embedded in the song: whatever you do, make sure it gets people’s attention, because if it doesn’t, you’ll never make the sale.

Theatrics and flair count for a lot. We are visual creatures and we respond to the pretty, the flashy, and the attention grabbing. For example, a color photograph is going to get more attention than a black and white one (unless the black and white photo is the only one among a bunch of color photos), and a video is always going to get more attention than a still image.

This is even more true nowadays, when we’ve all been inundated with showy, blinking ads and fast-moving media offerings. It takes even more to catch people’s attention these days, but that’s where your problem-solving design skills come in handy.

Using Your Sixth Sense

The more senses you can engage for your viewers, the better your response will be. Visual, sound, motion, color – whatever you can incorporate that will create a holistic experience and engages your audience as much as possible.

Obviously, this needs to be calibrated according to the specific niche you’re designing for, but basic human psychology doesn’t change. People will certainly retain more information about your content the more experiential and interactive it is.

Make It Count

Everything – and I mean everything – about your design project should tell a story, from the colors to the photography to every single word in your copy. If there’s anything that isn’t contributing to the story you want to tell, take it out immediately.

Again, it’s important to make sure your clients understand why a design choice is the right one or the wrong one. The closer you are to the money, the easier this will be. It’s quite easy to convince a client that your solution will help them get more customers, and thus make more money.

Customer Service Counts

Excellent customer service can take a restaurant from mediocre to amazing. In the culinary world, they say that presentation is three-quarters of a meal. That means that you are 75% more likely to enjoy a plate of food if it looks nice.

That sounds like a lot, but think about it: would you walk into a restaurant that had greasy, spoiled looking food sitting out on its counters, and be filled with confidence about whatever they were about to serve you? Or maybe the food looks fine, but the waitstaff is surly and inattentive, ignoring your questions or calls for service. Would that whet your appetite? I didn’t think so.

As a designer, “service” should be at the forefront of your mind at all times, even if you don’t think it’s part of your job description. You’re performing a service for your clients, and that includes the little details that make you stand out from your competition.

Thank you notes, extras and freebies, offers to help out whenever you’re needed and add value to your client will all help keep you at the top of your client’s mind when they’re thinking about hiring or referring someone.

What Do You Think?

How has your presentation and packaging of your ideas and designs helped your freelance business? Tell us below.

The post When It Comes to Ideas, It’s All About Presentation appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

Source: Speckyboy

Creating a Design System Language

It seems like Design System Language is the current buzz word in the design industry and everyone wants one.

But how exactly can a product benefit from having a living, breathing design language? I’m going to try break down the very basics so you can understand why it’s needed.

“Creating an underlaying language will unite our design philosophies and methodologies across our platform.”

So, Why Do We Need a Design Language?

There are two ways of looking at it, from an internal and an external perspective.

It creates a holistic perspective to ensure we’re all adhering to the same methodologies and patterns as a team. Every team member should be inline with the concept that we’re promoting and should be able to reference the design principles against any project they are currently working on.

The main goal of a design language is to create focus and clarity for designers. A design language is like any language. If there is any confusion it will cause a breakdown in communication.

Having a cohesive Design Language creates harmony within a platform. For onlookers, standardised colours, interactions and patterns creates a sense of familiarity and security. A well planned and well executed Design Language is the key to a gratifying experience.

For instance, if you walk into a Starbucks in Iceland, you will recognise a lot of similar touches to your local Starbucks down the road. Familiarity brings a sense of comfort and security to the user. Introducing design constraints on individual elements within a platform creates consistency at a higher level.

A successful Design Language will:

  • Focus: allow the designer to focus clearly on the project at hand rather then to be diverted by other distractions.
  • Clarity: allow the designer to think clearly about our design beliefs as well as the design constraints in place across the platform.
  • Confidence: allow the designer to have complete confidence in what they are designing and that it is inline with others in the team.
  • Consistency: create consistency across the product which in turn will create a secure, familiar experience across the platform.
  • Efficiency: create understanding across the teams, meaning less time consumed concentrating on the less important details.

Basically, if your designers are focused and understand the design language, it will give them confidence, which in turn will help the business at a higher level as it will create consistency and efficiency.

Building the Foundations…

Design Principles

Having solid design principles in place, that the whole team has contributed to, ensures that we’re all adhering to the same methodologies and patterns as a team. Every team member should be inline with the concept that we’re promoting and should be able to reference the design principles against any project they are currently working on.

Tone of Voice

Its important to create a consistent voice for our product. Each designer (or whoever is involved) should be aware of the approach needed when writing content. Having consistent content is a very large part of creating a consistent user experience and all designers should try to align all content accordingly.

Team Values

How do we work together as a team? It’s important that everyone pulls in the same direction and everyone agrees that the chosen values are important to creating a happy working environment.

There are obviously a whole lot more elements you can establish to create a core foundation for your design identity. The above is just the tip of the iceberg. Every company is different so feel free to expand on it as much as you feel is right to explain the methodologies of your approach.

Visual Identity…

Creating the visual identity isn’t something that will be created overnight. It takes time. Sometimes it’s as clear as day as to what is needed, other times it takes time for the building blocks to fall into place.

Once in place, it’s important that the fundamentals are captured and documented at a high level. The likes of use of colour, typography and style of iconography is key to creating consistency across a platform.

  • Colours: What is the colour palette used on the platform? Explain how, where and why we use certain colours.
  • Typography: What typeface is used on the platform? Summarises rules around weighting, sizing, vertical alignment etc?
  • Iconography: What is the generic style for icons? It will explain the rational as to why we have specific styles for different icon families.
  • Grid/Layouts: What grid system is used across the platform? Explain the use of the grid and the high level idealism of our layouts.
  • Interactions: What do people expect to see when they interact with our site? Give an overview of our standard interactions.
  • Animations: How do we approach animations? Explain the reason for animations on the platform and our constraints around using them.
  • Design Resources: A central point for assets to be easily downloaded for external partners. Colour swatches, logo’s, icon sets etc.

The Next Steps…

You probably are fully aware of how important a design language is within your platform but saying to yourself ‘where do I start?. This article is pretty high level. Creating a design language goes far, far deeper then what I have identified above. The creation of the styleguide and in turn the development of a component library is the evolution of a design system.

So here is a process that I’ve put together that should help you focus on exactly what is needed to get the ball rolling:

Do a UI Inventory Audit

Before you start anything, its best to identify how inconsistent the current build is. This works in two ways. It helps identify the reason as to why you’re doing it, to identify how inconsistent everything is but it should help you get the backing of the business as to why exactly you’re creating the design system; to create consistency across the platform. Brad Frost has put together a great article around how you go about doing a UI audit.

Prioritise Your UI Elements

Im sure every design team has different priorities with regards what they feel is crucial to creating consistency but there are generally some elements that are critical to creating the basics. The likes of colours, typography and iconography is a great place to start.

Work closely with the design and development team to create a list of priorities based on your UI audit, this should guide your roadmap for the foreseeable future. I’ve found using a Trello board as a way to keep a priority list up to date is a great way of working.

It allows you to 1) create your list and set them in a line of priority i.e what are you going to tackle first and 2) allows you to track exactly how far along you are with each component.

Start Discussions with the Design Team

So now that you’ve identified exactly what you’re going to be tackling first in the priority list, its time to sit down with the design team to get all ideas and opinions out around the first components needed.

There are various approaches as to who owns the design system project, but for this instance I’m going to take the instance that there is one sole designer who is in charge of control of the project.

This means it’s up to you to discuss every aspect of the component with the designers who will, in time, be using the design language. This is extremely important to ensure that the designers all feel as if they have had an input into what is being created.

Document all Instances

Its time to start making some decisions. Document what you are creating, ensuring that you’re catering for all instances needed. Its vital that what you are creating is not a subjective decision.

You have to have rationale as to why you are making these decisions as it will allow you to explain your decisions to the design team down the line.

See if it Works

The next step is to try out your decisions. Its very easy to make decisions on paper but when you are putting them into practice it might turn out that some decisions just don’t work. Try out some examples of the new style using current designs.

Lock it Down

One you are happy with the outcome, and you have buyin from all parties, its time to lock it down and educate the rest of the team as to how and why these elements are to be used. It’s important to remember that although you are locking down the styling, that if you feel certain elements aren’t working, that you can change it if needs be.

Move to the Next Element

Once you have educated the team and are comfortable in the knowledge that the designers are respecting your decisions, its time to move onto the next set of elements. Its up to you as to how many elements you take at a time, but you should never bite off too much.

It will just distract you from really focusing on the smaller details. My starting preference would be – Colours, typography // Icons, input fields // Tables, Lists // etc.

Once everyone is educated as to what the new style is, its important that all designer and developers are implementing the styles properly.
Weekly checkins are vital to monitor the style choices to ensure that everyone is working off the same design decisions. Using products such as Craft by Invision really help bring consistency when moving forward.

How to Gauge Success…

“The Design Language is not a success until the company starts using it and finding value in it.”

Examples of Design Languages…

Also, here is a case study that I created for a recent design overhaul that I was involved in: Ryanair Design Centre.

“The biggest existential threat to any system is neglect” – Alex Schleifer, VP of Design at Airbnb

The post Creating a Design System Language appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

Source: Speckyboy

The Underestimated Power Of Color In Mobile App Design



Color is arguably the second most important aspect of your app, after functionality. The human to computer interaction is heavily based on interacting with graphical UI elements, and color plays a critical role in this interaction.

The Underestimated Power Of Color In Mobile App Design

It helps users see and interpret your app’s content, interact with the correct elements, and understand actions. Every app has a color scheme, and it uses the primary colors for its main areas.

The post The Underestimated Power Of Color In Mobile App Design appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Source: Smashing Magazine

5 Tips on Hiring the Best Web Designer

You’re reading 5 Tips on Hiring the Best Web Designer, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

5 Tips on Hiring the Best Web Designer

Hiring a web design can be an exciting process. When I talk about hiring a web design in this post, the advice can be applied in a variety of ways. First, it could mean hiring a single, usually freelance, designer for a job you need to be done. It could also refer to a web […]

Source: Designmodo

Design Trends For Modal Windows On The Web

You’re reading Design Trends For Modal Windows On The Web, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

Design Trends For Modal Windows On The Web

Modal windows are those popup windows that appear over the screen rather than opening a new tab/window. They usually darken the background to bring attention to the popup. Most websites running modal windows add some type of call to action whether it’s a button or a form or something. But it can also be a […]

Source: Designmodo

6 Features That are Missing from Your Web Design

You’re reading 6 Features That are Missing from Your Web Design, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

6 Features That are Missing from Your Web Design

As a business owner, have you ever been totally clueless as to why your website isn’t converting? Do you feel like you have everything in place, yet your audience isn’t following through on your call to actions buttons, and your bounce rate is sky high? There could be a few crucial web design features that […]

Source: Designmodo

Super Deal: Mega Snow & Winter Bundle from Feingold Design – only $11!

This bundle contains 9 high-quality design products for your perfect winter time. Simulating photorealistic snow or fog for photography, web or print design has never been that easy. Various snow objects as well as 16 artistic snowflakes with transparent backgrounds will add a special touch to your Christmas and winter designs. The pack of winter photos and a frozen text effect rounds everything up, and is perfect for social media posts, bloggers or web shop owners.


  • Real Snow Brushes for Photoshop CS1+: This high resolution brush for Photoshop was created to paint falling and lying snow or photorealistic frozen effects. The snow flakes were cut out of real photographic material and can be used to create quite realistic snowscapes.
  • Real Snow Photo Overlays for Photoshop CS4+: Just drag one of the 4 different snow-layer folders on top of your photo. Each of the 4 preconfigured overlays consist of 8 different layers to control the amount and depth of snow.
  • Fog Effect for Photoshop CS4+: Realistic and lossless high quality fog effect prepared to fit for portrait, landscape, architecture or panorama photos. Easy to apply, just drag & drop the adjustment layer folder on top of your photo.
  • Frozen Text Effect for Photoshop CS4+:The Photoshop document provides simple adjustment settings for text layers to create frozen looking text. The effect is prepared for dark and bright backgrounds and comes fine-tuned in 7 different sizes (6pt to 180pt).
  • Snow Line Elements and Icicles : 27 photographic high-resolution snow line elements. Perfect to add more realistic snow to your web design, poster, greeting- or post card layouts. Cut out and prepared for easy use. Delivered in transparent PNG-files (38 files).
  • Seamless Snow Texture (1 JPG image file & PS Action): This seamless high-resolution snow texture was made to generate large snow surfaces. One JPG-file, 4717 × 3146 pixel, 300dpi. Including Photoshop Actions to generate large surfaces.
  • Abstract Snowflakes (16 transparent PNG image files): Want something special on your Christmas or business cards? This bundle includes 16 transparent snowflakes you can work with. Each flake is 2000 x 2000 pixel large (about 15 x 15 cm in print at 300 dpi).
  • Abstract Snowflake Generator for Photoshop CS4+: Paint your own individual snowflakes with the help of this PSD-file. You only paint one-twelfth of the snowflake and the Smart Object does the rest for you. Just paint with brushes into the Smart Object to get your 2000 x 2000 pixel snowflakes directly.
  • Winter & Snow Photo Pack (36 JPG image files): 36 winter photos matching a wide variety of snow related topics.

Check all the previews here.

Normally, this mega vector collection sells for $642 but for a limited time only, you can get Mega Snow & Winter Bundle for just $11 – That’s a monstrous savings of 98% off the regular price.Go here to get this awesome deal!

Read More at Super Deal: Mega Snow & Winter Bundle from Feingold Design – only $11!

Source: Web Design Ledger

Breaking Out Of The Box: Design Inspiration (January 2017)



Many people find it difficult to get their minds back into work after a holiday season filled with love, food, and friends. May 2017 bring you a healthy and inspiring adventure. As for that kick-start inspiration, I hope this article will help get you back in the creative mindset.

Breaking Out Of The Box: Design Inspiration (January 2017)

The above illustration has a style that I’m sure everyone will admire. The combination of colors used is simply marvelous — so simple, yet so complex.

The post Breaking Out Of The Box: Design Inspiration (January 2017) appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Source: Smashing Magazine

10 Web Design Trends to Try in 2017

You’re reading 10 Web Design Trends to Try in 2017, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

10 Web Design Trends to Try in 2017

Ready to refresh your website? The start of the year is a great time to take a hard look at your existing design – or even new projects – and think about how to incorporate some of the latest trends into the framework. From functionality to color and typography, 2017 will be a year of […]

Source: Designmodo