1. They understand the problem, and design a solution.
The difference between a designer and a great designer is not the ability to make something look good. Being a top level designer means having the ability to make something work well a be effective, especially when it comes to digital platforms. Unlike print, in the digital space people don’t just look at your design, they interact with it. Smart design is more important than pretty design.
2. They do the research.
People have created successful, and unsuccessful, versions of virtually everything. A good designer sifts through everything in order to take good and bad nuggets of strategy before designing a single thing.
3. They start with content (sitemap).
Digital designs will always be more effective if the design is built around the content, rather than trying to squeeze the content into an already built design. Designing without the complete content in mind is a recipe for having to redo the entire design from scratch.
4. They sketch.
Sketching is the quickest iteration tactic in the process. It takes 30 seconds to sketch something and realize it doesn’t work. Then 30 seconds to change it and make it work. Sketching before designing is a major time-saver in the long run. Also, this doesn’t necessarily mean pen and paper anymore. I’ve seen designers that are far quicker when they create digital sketches.
5. They use a layout grid (and stick to it).
Column, row, gutter, baseline, block, offset – the number one tell of an inexperienced digital designer is the inability to utilize these.
6. They know device sizes and their pixel density.
This is a constantly changing shit-show that every designer should stay on top of. One of the most difficult tasks that we have is recognizing the difference between device user behaviors and adapting the design in order to cater to all of them.
7. They spot the difference between a trend and a standard.
This is one of the most difficult traits to acquire. There is often a very fine line between trends and standards that is tricky to pick up on. Trends will look good for a year or two, but become dated and obsolete in the future. Standards may change, but remain respected throughout time.
8. They create a styleguide / UI kit.
Before mockups are created, the styleguide should be created based on the brand’s visual identity system. When most of the mockups are created, a UI kit is created to keep all of the digital assets in one place for future evolutions of the project.
9. They test, revise, test, revise, test, revise, test, revise, etc…
The best digital design in the world is data-driven. Digital products are always in beta, meaning they constantly change with the rapidly evolving digital world. The top tier digital designers will use any resource available to gather as much feedback as possible in order to make a product more effective.
10. They make the next one better.
No true designer should ever be satisfied with remaining the same. As the complex digital space becomes more complex, grow with it.
If you agree, let people know.