Writing is part of design and the best way to get better at anything is to do it. So here goes!
For a long time I’ve felt that I should write, but I’ve struggled to start. Why? I worry that my writing won’t be authentic, I won’t be able to convey my thoughts in an eloquent way, or I won’t say anything that people want to read. Ultimately, the idea of putting my thoughts out there for the world to see scares me.
I’ve tried to tell myself that I don’t need to write: “I’m a designer, not a writer.” I’ve put it off by consistently prioritizing it below day-to-day tasks. I’ve avoided writing because it scares me, and because it’s hard. But there are so many reasons why I should write. And here’s the thing: the best way to get better at anything is to do it. So here goes!
Why I’ve decided to write now
1. Writing is part of design
The web is mostly words (imagine Twitter without words!). Writing UI copy — headings, calls to action, instructions — is part of being a designer who creates products for the web. That copy needs to be clear and set the right tone. If your beautiful, usable UI falls apart because of a single unclear sentence, all your design work’s been for nothing. Even if you have a copywriter on your team, you need to be able to communicate the purpose of each element to them.
2. It’s a great way to learn
Writing about a topic forces you to look at it in a different way. When you write about something you tried that didn’t work, for example, you’ll look at the situation more objectively and analyze where things went wrong. You learn more from failure than you do from success, and writing about mistakes will only accelerate that learning.
3. It will help me think and communicate more clearly
To write, most people will jot everything down, then finesse the points into a coherent narrative. This is a lot like how I design, where I start by outlining the content and components. If you can’t finesse your brain dump into a coherent narrative, people won’t understand what you’re trying to say — and, when it comes to your designs, they won’t be able to use your product.
4. It will make me a better storyteller
Product design has often been compared to storytelling. Your target user is the protagonist. They have a goal they want to accomplish and obstacles to overcome to achieve that goal. Your design will either help or hinder them from reaching that goal. Being able to analyze the story, identify points of friction and remove them is an essential skill for a designer. In addition to this, all designers need to be able to sell their designs. To get people to understand what you made and why, you need to be able to tell a compelling story about your user achieving their goals through your design.
5. It’s important to share ideas about design
I’m continually learning from the writing of other designers and I believe that it’s important to keep this cycle going. I hope that sharing what I’ve done will help others learn and grow in their turn.
At the end of the day, I believe that writing regularly will make me a better designer.
How I’m going to get started
I plan to make time to write regularly. I won’t worry about the quality to start, I’ll focus on getting my ideas out there. Even if I write seven articles and only share one, I’ve gotten so much more practice!
2. Keep an idea list
This is something I’ve been doing for a while. Every time an idea for an article strikes, I add it to a page in my Notes app (I use Notes to organize my life, so it’s always nearby and top of mind). Even if I don’t have time to write then, I’ve captured the idea.
3. Seek ideas from a wide variety of places
When I’m starting a new design, I look for inspiration in many places (design inspiration sites, competitor products, unrelated websites, books, the outside world, etc.). In design, the more sources, the better. It makes sense that the same would be true for writing. Some of the ideas on my list have come from:
- Something new that I’ve learned
- Something I’ve struggled with
- A mistake I’ve made
- Questions I’ve gotten from clients, customers or coworkers
- Interesting conversations with peers
- A behind-the-scenes look at something I made
- The design process or rituals that we use at Influitive
- Tutorials, tips and tricks
- Things that have helped me become a better Product Designer (books, courses, habits)
- Anything that inspires me
4. Make an outline first
There’s nothing more daunting than a blank page. When designing something new, I start with the project objectives, then outline the content and components. Only then do I start designing. I approach writing the same way: start with an overall thesis statement (what do I want to say?), then create a skeleton that highlights the key points I want to make. Just like at the wireframing stage of design, don’t waste energy fussing about style, format or how well it reads — just get the ideas down. A first draft outline helps you focus on the topic first, and how it’s written later.
5. Read more
I read a lot. Books, blogs, articles, publications… The more you read, the more ideas for topics you’ll have (believe me — I have a long idea list, I just need to act on it!). Read outside of your industry, as well. You never know what will inspire you!
And that’s it (for now)
The most difficult part of anything is starting. Starting to write by writing about why I don’t write may seem strange (it’s also a mouthful), but it’s still a start!
Design is about getting things out there — not perfecting them — and seeing how they do. Writing is similar. Get it out there and see how it does. Learn from that, then improve. I’m here to learn and improve my own skills, so please let me know what you thought of this article.
Lead Designer @ Influitive