New Year, New Web Design Goals
Mindy Wagner, Former Design Director
Yep, it's December 31st. Which means tomorrow everyone will be kicking off the new year with gloriously over-zealous resolutions for 2009. And why not? It's good to challenge yourself, to set ambitious goals and get pumped up about progress. I'm big on self-improvement and growth, so I always make "in the year ahead" lists for myself. This year I'm skipping the weight loss and exercise goals. Being 6 months pregnant is a great excuse for laziness and extra chocolate. Instead, my list includes a whole bunch of ideas for career growth.
My biggest web design goals for 2009 are:
#1: Improve my design vocabulary
Although I took plenty of art classes in high school, my college major (Electronic Media Art & Communication at RPI) was less traditionally "artsy". The training I got there was perfect for my eventual career in web design, but I sometimes feel like skipping Art 101 left me with a few shortcomings. I often lack the right words to effectively communicate my ideas. Rhythym, balance and proportion are not words that regularly roll off my tongue. Choices I make based on gut instincts and years of experience could easily be backed up by common design principles like these, but I have trouble coming up with the right terms when I am presenting my work.
This also applies to web design patterns (like those named here or here ). Even though I see things every day and incorporate them into my layouts, I don't always know the right terminology for the elements I use. If I could refer to them in a clear and consistent manner I would be a more effective presenter.
Actions to take: I'm an avid reader and a visual learner, so I plan to read more books about design principles. Two recommended to me are Primer of Visual Literacy by Donis Dondis and Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Tim Samara. I own Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton which I can highly recommend to others with the same goal. Any other suggestions?
#2: Get more involved in the design community
Aside from blogging here at Inspire and attending monthly Refresh the Triangle meetings, I have been seriously slacking when it comes to community involvement - both online and in the "real world" here in Durham. I can rattle off all sorts of excuses but the truth is I'm a homebody and an observer at heart and sit on the sidelines all too often. I learn a lot from other designers and give very little in return. I also know virtually no one in my new home state. Time to stop being such a wallflower!
Actions to take: Blog more frequently, leave thoughtful and constructive comments on other people's blogs more frequently. Attend more local events and make a point of chatting with people I don't know at these events.
#3: Seek more offline forms of inspiration and artistic outlets
Like I said in my post "Overcoming Inspiration Overload", I'm burned out on all the CSS galleries and page after page of the same design styles. I'm sick of sifting through posts titled "25 Most Fantastic Mind-Blowing Blog Designs Ever Created". They aren't helping me think creatively. I want to consider things from different angles and produce work that is unique. I think that getting offline more will help me bring a fresher approach to my designs.
Along that same vein, doing something artistic other than web design seems like a healthy goal. I used to do all sorts of artsy-crafty type things but in the past few years I've let a lot of my free time go to lousy tv shows and mindless web surfing.
Actions to take: Use my sketchpad before my computer. Go to at least 3 art shows here in Durham. Collect pretty bits of offline design and create an inspiration board for my home office. Use my Nikon d-40 for more than just family photos. Pull out my art supplies and put them somewhere tempting so I will be reminded to use them.
#4: Continue to improve my understanding of User Experience design
Sitting next to a crazy good UX designer like Jackson Fox has its perks. One of them is that I'm constantly learning new user experience design principles. Although the user has always been my primary reason for every design decision, I've been soaking up more and more theories and real-world examples through our daily interactions. And with each new thing I learn, I get more and more interested in the how and why behind user-centric design.
Actions to take: Again with the reading... I am currently halfway through Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski, and plan to squeeze a few more books in this year. Edward Tufte is at the top of my list. I'm also subscribing to a few high-quality UX blogs including Jared Spool's Brain Sparks and Luke W.'s Functioning Form.
#5: Simplify my everyday processes
It seems like life online keeps getting more and more complicated.... and I won't even get started on my offline life. Every day at work I juggle dozens of software programs and hundreds of passwords. And I'm obssessed with checking my favorite blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook updates. I'm keeping up with way too much stuff that isn't really important and neglecting things that could make every day a little smoother.
Actions to take: Pick the software programs and services that are essential to my work. Focus on learning them inside and out, including keyboard shortcuts to speed up my work. Drop any software, service or blog I no longer find useful. Start using a Password Manager. (Any suggestions on a good one?)
Those are my top 5... ambitious, but doable. How about you? What design goals would you like to acheive in the year ahead?