Desk with computer and tools for wireframing
Desk with computer and tools for wireframing
UX Store Unsplash

Design tests are a hotly debated topic in the field. Almost daily I see someone post on LinkedIn referring to them as horrible, unfair, outdated, and sometimes even as theft. The moderates weigh in to suggest that companies should pay the designers for the labor. The more passive claim that a small test is fine if it doesn’t result in material that could be used by the company. I am here to defend the design challenge and to discuss which pieces I believe should be improved.

Doing work to get a job is not unique

Many designers seem to be under the impression that design is the only field in which something like this occurs. Yet that’s light-years from the truth. When applying to graduate programs in music composition, I was asked to write many essays, put together portfolios, take tests, and more. All for the chance to make a small stipend and potentially get a job as an adjunct down the road. …

In design, the happy path is what happens when the user does everything exactly the way you expect them to. Although this can happen, it won’t always happen.

A straight, sandy path.
A straight, sandy path.
This is a happy path. Alice Donovan Rouse Unsplash

One of the most common mistakes I see in portfolios from junior designers is that they often show too much — and too little — simultaneously.

One unfortunate reality of the many design boot camps out there is that they seem to encourage students to design entire apps or entire web pages for fake businesses.

Now, before we continue, I am a big supporter of design boot camps. I believe that there is a lot of work to be done to improve many of them, and I also feel like General Assembly is a borderline criminal enterprise. The most unprepared students tend to come from there and I have met more than a few that haven’t been able to find jobs even years later. Regardless, I think that boot camps, in general, are filling a very real gap for a career that lacks college programs. …

An unattractive figurine of Donald Trump.
An unattractive figurine of Donald Trump.
Sean Ferigan Unsplash

One of the most popular words in design is “empathy.” I’m here with the firm belief that empathy is bullshit. Empathy as the concept of “truly being able to feel what someone else feels,” is a terrific way for companies to avoid paying for in-depth research, but that doesn’t make it any more true. We can only reference our own lived experiences, and to say otherwise diminishes the experiences of others.

Empathy under Trump

I’m not going to pretend to be neutral on this issue. I despise Trump. …

I was discussing the problem of partisanship with some friends recently. And as we were discussing the seemingly insurmountable divide between the two parties and their beliefs, I had an idea.

If the divide is insurmountable, what if we stop trying to surmount it?

My proposal is simple — give Republicans and Democrats exactly what they want.

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Jakob Owens Unsplash

In my proposed Utopia, everyone must register as either a Democrat or a Republican. You are given an ID with your party on it. And how you operate within the world is based off of this.

Some examples:

  • You are a Republican, your taxes are lower but you have to pay tolls on all roads, and if you need to call the fire department, you are billed afterward. …

Arguably the most important element of design has nothing to do with what you create. It has to do with the space between the content. Whether it is the padding within a button or margins from the edge of that button to the edges of the screen — good spacing is crucial.

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Anyone see designs that look like this and question things?

Spacing allows us to group content without ugly borders and dividers everywhere. Spacing allows us to guide the user’s eye to the most important content efficiently and gracefully. Spacing gives our designs a feeling of balance and poise. Good spacing isn’t noticed — but bad spacing is painfully obvious.

I’ve found that many junior designers tend to focus too much of their time on the color choices, font choices, border radii of their buttons, etc.
But spacing is rarely given the weight it deserves.

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Some of the text styles in our design system

Using text styles in Figma offers teams a number of new ways to approach organizing text. There are differences between how Figma and Sketch handle text styles — and I believe Figma‘s system is superior.

In Sketch, text styles include their justifications. This may not seem like a huge deal — but can quickly explode out into a longer-than-necessary collection of styles.

The naming convention that I subscribed to in Sketch:
Category/Description/Description 2 (optional)/Justification
A couple of examples:

In some cases, I might not need multiple justifications, for example:
The button text is always center-aligned so we can drop the justification from the name. …

Color styles (known as layer styles in Sketch) allow for quick batch editing of colors within a document. At the most basic level, a color style could be created called “blue.” Anywhere that we want to use blue, we assign this color style. Later on when we decide we actually wanted green — we can edit the color style to be green and voila, everything that was assigned “blue” is now green.

Making Color Styles

Making color styles in Figma is very simple.

  1. Create something (anything works). I recommend a rectangle (⌘+r).
  2. Give that rectangle a fill color.
  3. Next to fill click…

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Aditya Chinchure @ Unsplash

The other day my partner and I were talking about the best concerts we’ve been to. We have been to a number of concerts together, including pop concerts like Beyoncé and Coldplay, to EDM shows like Um.., to country bands like Dalton and the Sheriffs, all the way to obscure new music concerts at universities.

My partner and I both have musical backgrounds with her working as a music teacher currently — and us both having gone to school for our bachelor’s and Master’s in music.

All that being said, when we began the discussion I assumed I could guess her list and it would be similar to mine. I mean, if we learned anything from years of music school, the best musical experience can’t actually be that subjective. …

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Austin Distel @ Unsplash

UX Design is a broad field, and there are many misunderstandings of what it entails. But one of the primary goals of UX is:

To reduce the risk of releasing a product through research and testing — ultimately resulting in stronger user experiences (more users equals more money for the business).

Recruiters ultimately have a similar goal. Their job is to vet candidates with the goal of reducing the risk of waste. It’s extremely expensive for a business when a new hire doesn’t work out. And it happens surprisingly often.

According to Leadership IQ, 46% of new hires don’t work out. …

A discussion of ethics

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clay banks — unsplash

Loyalty programs have been around for a long time. In fact, in some ways, they are built into human nature. Hundreds of years ago, I guarantee that the baker you went to for bread routinely would get to know you and reward that relationship.

As restaurants realized the power of loyalty programs, the era of the stamp card began. Collect ten stamps, get a reward. Buy ten coffees, get a free coffee.

Tech brought this all to another level with different apps. The most well-known rewards program exists within the Starbuck’s app. …


Aaron Cecchini-Butler

I’m a Product Designer at Grubhub working on the LevelUp Team to create branded apps for restaurants.

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