Becoming a better designer in 100 days.
In October 2015 I was studying UI Design at The Iron Yard when Sam Kapila passed along something she had just found called Daily UI, a project to “become a better designer in 100 days.” At first it seemed rather daunting, especially with final projects coming up. But Sam suggested we “Geico it up” and try to complete each day’s exercise in 15 minutes or less. That sounded less intimidating, so I decided to give it a go.
Here’s how it works: every weekday I receive an email with the day’s prompt. It’s then up to me to interpret and design the UI element. I then share my work on Dribbble with the tag #dailyui. So far it’s been an interesting undertaking. I’m not done yet, but now that I’ve got the bulk of the challenge under my belt, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.
Things I’ve Learned
The usefulness of pattern libraries. Having to come up with new UI elements every day has taught me how much time and effort can be saved by using a pattern library. No need to reinvent the wheel every time. Don’t get me wrong, I believe many times the best solution is a custom solution. But once you’ve made it, you should reuse it.
The benefits of doing something just for me. I went through a phase where I was comparing myself to others on Dribbble, focusing too much on the metrics. Needless to say, that’s a slippery slope. With this project, I focused on having fun, doing good work, and trying to learn through the process. Sure, I still notice how many likes my shots get. But it hasn’t been of much interest to me. My focus is on becoming a better designer, not being popular on Dribbble.
Time. Keeping it under 15 minutes has been dang near impossible for me. If I complete the exercise within a half hour I’m doing alright. From time to time I do finish in 15 minutes, but when that happens I feel like I’ve phoned it in.
Consistency. Doing something every day, even if it is just weekdays, is hard. I didn’t even come close to doing it every day. Fortunately I had the weekends to catch up on those weeks where I fell a day or two behind. Looking back, I already wish I had been more disciplined about it.
If I Had It To Do Over…
I would probably try to create a single project to work on. I’m not even done yet, and I’m already looking back and wishing everything was more cohesive. Although in my defense, coming up with a project that required such a wide variety of UI elements would be difficult. After all, what project would require a login screen, an event listing, and a calculator? An operating system, maybe?
I’d spend less time looking at examples of other people’s designs. I mean, most of the time I’m just trying to get a feel for what’s already out there, what’s already working, and best practices. But I know there have been times when I let other people’s work influence mine a little too heavily. I’m not gonna beat myself up about it, because it’s just a learning project. I won’t do that on the job.
So far Daily UI has been a pretty good learning experience. It has kept me thinking, kept me designing, and kept me busy. It’s no substitute for work experience, but it’s not meant to be; it’s practice.
- My First Three Months at CROmetrics
- What The Criterion Collection Taught Me About Design
- Dear Startups, Stop Asking People to Work for Free
- CSS Crash Course
- Daily UI
- Simple Dynamic Navigation in Jekyll
- Designing for Mobile
- CSS Zen Garden
- Type Study
- A New Adventure
- Avoiding Jargon
- Fail Forward