How to become an interface designer. Necessary skills and powerful tools that we are not told about

Despite the abundance of training materials, beginning specialists year after year are concerned with the same question: how to take the first steps in design.

Having received a lot of questions from young designers, I decided to write material that I would like to read at the start of my career. It is based on personal experience and lessons learned in communicating with successful designers from large studios and product teams.

In the first part, I will talk about the basic skills of a good designer, and in the second, how to use them to build a career.

The foundation of the designer

In any field there are a number of basic skills, without which there is nothing to do in the profession. Only by gaining these skills can you count on promotion and income.

Focus, goals and objectives

Every designer should know for what purpose the interface is created and what tasks it should solve.
The airline's website exists for people whose goal is to move from one city to another, and its task is to help find a flight that meets their needs.

Goals and objectives are not the same. You may have a goal to have a good evening, and the task is to choose between cinema, restaurant and football.

The designer should always keep in mind the goals of users, and in practice solve their problems. Surely, you are currently working or starting to work on any project. Think about what his goals and what tasks he should solve.

The service may have a lot of tasks and some will conflict with each other, so you need to choose one main one and make its implementation as convenient as possible without sacrificing the others.

How would it work if it were easy?

I regularly ask myself this question, meeting a new task. It helps me to distract from the existing templates and come up with a solution that corresponds to the current task.

At the start of my career, I, like many, first of all ran to design resources in search of “inspiration” and tried to find a solution that can be applied to my task. Although in reality, I was not looking for inspiration, but only tried to strain my brain less.

Copying someone else's solution is tempting, but one should not forget that any pattern can work well in one case and absolutely not work in another. And who will you become only imitating someone else's work? After all, a good designer is always distinguished by the ability to think.

It is useful to adopt someone else's experience, looking at concepts and working services, but when confronted with a new task, you should not forget to include your head.

Aesthetics of the interface

I love Medium for good typography and ease of writing articles, although on other resources my articles sometimes gain two to three times as many views. But the point is not only beauty.

A good visual makes it easier to read and eliminates the need to scale the page. A good visual focuses on important elements, which is nice on social networks and crucial in business services.

Instagram hasn't just changed its interface from black and blue to white. His goal was to focus on the content that users generate.

Periodically, we hear about the mistakes that people make because of the complex interface. Of course, to randomly like a button is not a problem, but an error in controlling an airplane or a nuclear power plant can lead to tragedy.

The easiest way to improve visual skills is to learn from the experience of others by copying interfaces and reading sensible materials. Google design guides helped me in my time.

In Russian, you can read the capacious material of the studio of Oleg Chulakov: I am sure that at the start of his career, he would have helped me a lot.

Another very important thing is an outside view. I always worked in startups where I was a designer, which gave me more freedom of action, but deprived of feedback from experienced colleagues.

Most designers start their careers at home, so the only way to get feedback for them is to make a relationship with an experienced designer and periodically ask him for a comment about their work.

What does he want?

A good designer thinks scenarios, not screens.
A script is a sequence of actions that a user must perform in order to perform a specific task. For example, choose the best flight. The script can be solved within a single screen, and can contain as many as you like. The task of the designer is not to reduce the number of screens, but to make the user's task more convenient, intuitive.

Sometimes a task requires step-by-step logic, where each step is a separate page, as during complex registration. Some tasks are more convenient to solve within the framework of a single screen (for example: creating a publication in social networks).

Scripts underlie the design of any interface, so any design must begin with them.

Consistency in design

All companies that are even a little concerned with design come to the idea that redrawing the same components and arranging them in a new way is a rather stupid idea. Therefore, everyone began to create a unified system of components, and a little later, the logic of their placement.

After some more time, the designers united with the developers, linking their elements in the layouts with the customized components on the front. Due to this, the designer has less and less to draw and more and more use his two main tools: the brain and the front-end developer.

Developers need to respect and at least logically understand the essence of their work. Without this, it will be difficult to find a common language and create an excellent product.

Having a ready-made set of necessary elements and styles, you can think more about solving user problems and less about drawing.

Even a good idea is easy to kill.

I remember how, at the beginning of my career, when presenting a design solution, I was easily embarrassed by asking a simple question, for example, why an element like that. Then I tried to reasonably answer the question because of what arose a meaningless dialogue that influenced the perception of all the work.

Only with experience, I realized that questions not related to the main topic should be ignored. For example, saying: “These are only details, so let's discuss the main things that affect the business, and at the end we will return to your question.” Oddly enough, this answer saves you from useless conversation and presents you as a professional who cares about the client’s business, not his ego.

In order for your design decisions to be made, you need to link them with the analytics you conducted before you reach this decision. Having shown that your decision was the result of a serious analytical work, in the framework of which you studied competitors and tested several solutions, it will be difficult to disagree with you.

Books for designers

People periodically ask me which books helped me become better in design.


Only regular practice and understanding of the business helped me bring the company great benefit and increase my value in the market.

Go ahead.

Where to work

There are three popular options: studio, product or startup.

The studio is well suited for beginners, as there are plenty of designers around you who can learn something. The pace is higher here, as there are clear deadlines for the start and end of the project. Due to the fact that the cost of the project is tied to man-hours, in the studios they earn mostly less than in the product.

The product has a more relaxed rhythm, since the company's profit does not directly depend on the work of the designer. Often, the design team deals with the functionality that will appear in the future, so for them the quality is most often more important than speed. Especially for projects used by millions.

In startups, the contribution of each employee is extremely important, since the teams are small and often the design department consists of only one person, so it’s better to go there completely confident in your abilities.

Throughout my career, not counting freelancing, I worked in startups, where I was the only designer. The disadvantage of this work is that there is no mentor nearby, so I did a lot of self-education and analysis of my work. The advantage is that you can influence the final product as much as possible by working together with the founders.

Good luck generation

[very important part]

Many limit their view of the world to professional skills, although they are only a necessary minimum. You can be a great designer, but what is the use of it, if nobody knows about you (not the clients, not the community)?

Some are lucky and their careers are built in a favorable way, but not because they are lucky from birth, but only because they unknowingly performed actions that increase the chances of success.

Among these actions are active and passive.

Among the passive ones is the presence of a resume, portfolio and neat profiles in social networks. These things increase the likelihood that you may accidentally notice and offer an interesting project.

Active actions - responses to other people's vacancies, publication of articles and cases, communication with professionals from various fields, direct letters to employers and the creation of your own community. Due to this, you do not wait until you find it, but on your own increase the likelihood of a promising offer.

I know a designer from the region who led a table with leading professionals from our industry and upon arrival in Moscow met with them. Due to this, he managed to get a good job offer and after a year and a half to change one top studio to another, taking the place of a partner.

The currently popular option is to take a course from a well-known company or take part in a competition.

Pavel Shumakov, having won the Russian Design Cup, received an offer from VKontakte, and later moved to the London office of Badoo. Some guys, after passing the course from Skillbox, received a job offer at AIC.

A long-known option is to make a fake project, investing in it all the power and high-quality publish it in the portfolio. The most famous example is the redesign of Google News by Georgiy Kvasnikov, who brought him a number of offers from large companies.

Well, the last.

It is important to understand that there are adequate people behind the cover of any brand who are ready to consider an ambitious candidate at any time. Your task is to present yourself correctly. A competent letter to a common box and a neat portfolio are sometimes all you need.

How to prove yourself in a new place

One of the most important things that I realized during my career is the ability to move forward, despite the setbacks. Errors can not be avoided, so you need to properly treat them.

This is elementary logic:
Success is achieved not by those who do not make mistakes, but by those who go forward despite them.
My way, which I described in the large history of “Becoming a Designer”, contained a number of failures that could cost me the job, but even at the beginning of my career my intuition suggested that worrying would not help anyone and the only way to achieve something is to just go ahead.

So do not worry, faced with problems in the new work. Everyone went through it, including Steve Jobs, who in the first 15 years of his career made a series of costly mistakes, which many considered him a loser in the late 90s. And only arrogant confidence in his mission allowed him to go forward and after a decade to become an icon of the industry.
Be open, build relationships with colleagues, be interested in the experiences of others and when you have a chance, take the initiative.

Inevitable outcome

It may be too early for novice specialists to read about the outcome, but one designer wrote to me that she didn’t just want to “move pixels”, but to strive to participate in the creation of a product. Typically, designers come to these thoughts after a few years, getting tired of doing the same type of services for customers.

The most logical growth option is the position of art director, which is that you close the graphic editor forever and perform only intellectual work, correcting the direction of other designers.

Another option is to go to the grocery company, where, together with colleagues, you will have the opportunity to work on improving one product.

A good option is to join a startup and be responsible for the design of the entire project. If successful, you will begin to recruit and train other designers, forming a department.

Perhaps some of you will want to move to the position of product manager and be responsible for communication between the teams and the project development strategy.

Well, the most ambitious option is to establish your project. A good designer understands how marketing and development work, what people need, and knows how to use it.

Making the transition from the position of a designer is not so difficult. Instead of waiting for you to rise, start taking on new responsibilities yourself.
I have been applying this principle for a long time, and as experience shows, if there are adequate colleagues, your initiative will be noted.

The key to everything

The young designer asked me a question:

Is it better to continue self-education or to get a job as soon as possible?
Always and in everything, practice is the best way to study any discipline, and if it is combined with adequate feedback, then you cannot find anything better.
Therefore, if you want to achieve something in design, then get to work as early as possible and it is very good if you have experienced colleagues near you. If there are none, then do projects yourself and look for feedback among designers in social networks.

At the start of a career, focus on quality, not on the number of projects. No need to look for a new job in search of a better life. First, learn to do it well.

And do not forget that design skills - only half the success. In addition to them, you need to be able to communicate with people, understand the principles of business operation and be active in finding interesting offers.

Work hard every day and do not forget that any success takes time.

Patience and perseverance is the key to everything.

Make this a breakthrough week.

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