I’m not usually a huge fan of generic New Year’s resolutions — things like “eat better” or “workout more” can happen whenever (or never). But at the start of 2019, I wrote myself a couple of Design Resolutions… creative goals I had for my work that could begin when I returned to my ongoing projects in the new year. These were real goals I could hold myself accountable to — and as it happened, January was the perfect timing to try something new.
I only had two resolutions in 2019, but I found them to be incredibly valuable to me and my work. And without much ongoing effort I was able to keep them up for the entire year, eventually forming creative habits and hopefully evolving my design skills for the better. So these are mine from last year, and a couple for 2020 — hopefully they’ll inspire your own:
🎉 1. Have More Fun!
As a UX/UI designer, my work tends towards being functional and utility-based — which is fine, but sometimes in the pursuit of simplicity I forego more “human” touches that can make work a bit more fun. This resolution was an attempt to embrace the unexpected, explore the weird, and try stuff that had no reason other than to delight.
To make this happen I spent more time away from design systems —creating stuff that felt good rather than accurate — I gave myself permission to explore options I was almost certain were wrong (or too ambitious), and by asking myself “if the obvious solution is a 1, what would a 10 look like?”.
For example, instead of adding a standard ratings component to our help docs, I thought these friendly faces were a little more fun. Although trivially small, I’ve probably received more user praise about this than anything else I’ve produced in my 15 year career!
Whilst seemingly trivial, I’m proud to have applied this to something as simple as making our status icons colorblind friendly. Afterall, shapes are cool.
🤓 2. Prototype More!
Since design tools (Sketch, Figma etc) have become so good at emulating interaction, I noticed that I had stopped prototyping anything. As a result I felt like my work was missing something when it was being built and deployed… like a little interaction magic had been lost. So this resolution was an attempt to bring my static designs closer to the finished product.
To do this I jumped into code way before I knew what the solution looked like. Whilst scary—and sometimes a pointless and frustrating exercise—this gave me an opportunity to try ideas that were a bit less ordinary, were “interaction-first” in their approach (i.e. felt right when you scrolled, clicked, dragged and typed) and embraced animation.
For example, I stumbled across this mashup between a modal and an accordion that was the perfect solution to a tough visual density problem.
Also, I probably wouldn’t have designed a lightweight emoji reaction widget with so many interaction states if I didn’t code it from the beginning…
My 2020 Resolutions
This year in addition to continuing on the above, I’ve got a few more resolutions that have been brewing in the back of my mind.
⭐️ Go Big, Go Bold!
Subtlety is a theme that runs deep through my portfolio, largely due to my dyslexia (less contrast and clear hierarchy is the language of love for confused brain) — but this year I want to fully embrace color! Instead of grey shades and single-pixel borders to define structure, I’d like to explore giant type, bold colors and unusual treatments — less function, more form.
In June “What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?” was published by Anoushka Khandwala and I can’t stop thinking about it — especially since getting drunk and putting the world to rights with Nancy Douyon.
In my world, this means looking beyond the US software market for inspiration. I’m growing tired of using the same players for visual reference… instead I’d like to take lead from designers and products that don’t dominate the front-pages. I’ve seen some incredible work come from Africa, India and Israel recently — I’d like more of that to influence my work in 2020.