5 Articles that Changed my Perspective on Design

The amount of content available on the internet is mind blowing. But sometimes, you find something that is incredibly relevant to you, content that can change your perspective, content that will get your blood pumping. When you do, it’s so satisfying: “YES! This is it!”

In the last couple of years, thanks to the internet, I’ve found many design professionals writing about our field. And some of them have become my design heroes. Working at Atomic, I sometimes forget that we’re not all designers by trade—some of my team mates have entirely different interests. My coworkers might not know my heroes, and I probably don’t know theirs, and it’s really easy to lose that perspective.

So here goes. Below are five articles that changed my perspective and gave me some designers to look up to. Each article has a pinnacle quote that I chose to summarize the message gleaned.

1. The Inferno of Independence

Frank Chimero, Writer and Designer

There’s about a million miles between saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and “I’m making it up as I go.” …goddamn — I am sick of hearing the people I respect the most undercutting themselves. You are awesome and big, and I will carry you on my shoulders for miles if that’s what it takes to get you to a place where you can see how great you are.

2. Learning to See

Oliver Reichenstein, Information Architects

It is not the hand that makes the designer, it’s the eye. Learning to design is learning to see. Naturally, what designers learn to see as they improve their skills is usually related to design. Doctors don’t see web sites in the same way as web designers, just as web designers don’t see radiographs as doctors do. Our experience sharpens our eyes to certain perceptions and shapes what we expect to see, just as what we expect to see shapes our experience. Our reality is perspectival. Although we don’t perceive and sense things that a more experienced practitioner can, we can learn, and it’s very exciting and rewarding to do so.


3. The Crossroads of Should and Must

Elle Luna (this is an essay, turned book)

Weaving our Must into our existing reality is about co-designing small opportunities with our teams. It’s about setting aside quiet time to be alone with our thoughts, and then actually following through. It’s about doing one small thing, anything, to honor our personal truth — today.

4. Building a Trustworthy Design Process

Julie Zhuo, Product Design Director at Facebook

Nothing should be done at random; ignorance is the enemy of good design. To make a subpar decision because you didn’t get enough context or feedback is to fail. But to make a subpar decision when you considered all the angles but ultimately made the wrong tradeoff — that kind of mistake is honest, and far easier to learn from. When you put in that much careful thought, you don’t fall for the same trap twice.

5. The Boring Designer

Cap Watkins, VP of Design, Buzzfeed

The boring designer chases the right idea over their idea every time. They respect their team and will try almost any idea (whether on a whiteboard or in Sketch or in code) that gets thrown their way. Instead of arguing about whose idea should win, the boring designer tries all the ideas and even elevates others’ ideas in the process. The boring designer abhors groupthink and being told “yes.” They consistently request feedback and new ideas. And as a result when they feel super passionately about their own idea, the team listens.

These articles and quotes are just small taste of each individual’s writing. If you for some reason are not familiar with these folks, I hope you’ll dig deeper and explore more of their writing.