So You've Written a Bad Design Take

What went wrong?

So you’ve just written a blog post or tweet about why wireframes are becoming obsolete, the dangers of “too accessible” design, or how a certain style of icon creates “cognitive fatigue.”

Your post went viral, but now you’re getting ratioed by rude people on the Internet. That sucks! You were just trying to start a conversation and you probably didn’t deserve all that negativity (except for you, “too accessible” guy).

Most likely, you made one of these common mistakes:

1. You made generalizations about “design”

You, a good user-centered designer, know that you are not your user. Nor are you every designer.

First of all, let's acknowledge that there is no universal definition of design. Even if we narrow it down to software design, it’s still hard to make generalizations. Agency, in-house, product, startup, enterprise, non-profit, website, app, connected hardware, etc. – there are a lot of different work contexts and cultures for people with “designer” in their titles.

"The Design Industry" is not a thing, but even if it were, you don't speak for it. Don’t assume that the kind of design work you do is the universal default.

2. You didn’t share enough context

There are many great design books and few great design blog posts. (There are, to my knowledge, no great design tweets, but I am open to your suggestions.) Writing about design is not well suited to short formats, because context plays such an important role and there’s always a lot of it to cover.

Writing about your work should include as much context as you would include if you were presenting your portfolio for a job interview. What kind of organization did you work for? Who was your client and/or your stakeholders? What was the goal of the project? Your timeline? What was the makeup of your team? What were the notable business rules and constraints? How are you defining effectiveness and success?

Without these kinds of details, it’s not possible for other designers to know if what you’ve written is credible or applicable to them.

3. You were too certain

A blog post doesn’t need to be a dissertation. It’s okay to share hunches and anecdotes, but give the necessary caveats. And if you're making claims about science, bruh, you gotta cite your sources.

Be humble in your takes. Your account of what worked for you and why is more valuable to your peers than making sweeping claims and reheating the same old arguments. Be prepared to be told you’re wrong, and have the humility to realize that your perspective is just your perspective. Real conversations, like good design, are built on feedback and diverse viewpoints.

Together, we can improve the discourse in our information ecosystems. Don't generalize. Give context. Be humble.

Curt Arledge

Curt is a researcher, designer, theorist, explorer, writer, and speaker with the title of Senior User Experience Designer. He works in Viget's Chattanooga, TN outpost for clients like POLITICO, the NFL Players Association, the Bronx Zoo, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

More articles by Curt

Sign up for The Viget Newsletter

Nobody likes popups, so we waited until now to recommend our newsletter, a curated periodical featuring thoughts, opinions, and tools for building a better digital world. Read the current issue.