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Thread: Why Do My Designs Suck?

  1. #1
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    Why Do My Designs Suck?

    Three years ago (and even sometimes now) I've often asked myself this question: why do my designs suck?

    What you actually want to know is this: why don't my designs turn out as I see them in my head?

    As a new designer (or even an older one like myself) the reason your designs do not function as you see them in your mind is called "translation."

    Translation is the way we execute what our brain sees. Just like an artist who practices life drawings - you have to practice designing. That's the only way to get better at it. Trust me.

    So what do you do to practice? Firstly, I would not recommend reading photoshop tutorials at first. This is because most tutorials leave out the basics and kind of defeat the purpose of design. Read this for more info:

    Tutorials Gone Wild… | The Design O'Blog by Niki Brown

    Another reason is that even if you design the best mock-up ever, you still have to code it. While you can hire someone to do it for you, I prefer knowing how to do my own.

    Also - don't use dreamweaver. I know a lot of people seem to think it's essential for creating designs, but it isn't. There are a ton of tools (cheaper tools) out there for you to use, such as Espresso or Coda. Learning to hand code will make your more versatile, I promise.

    How to Get Started with Improving Translation

    To improve your translation, you need to do a few things. Let me tell you what they are:

    • Learn Valid XHTML
    • Learn CSS and CSS Tricks
    • Learn Common Web Design Mistakes
    • Learn Web Standards
    • Understand How Browsers Work


    Those are the basic ideas. Just google some of these topics, or go to your local bookstore and pick up a few phrasebooks. The reason you'll want to learn these languages and how the browser works is because when you start designing, you'll have those tools in your brain and you won't be asking "okay, how do I do this?" every five minutes.

    The next part is simple - find a template you like (a simple one at first) and try to recreate it. First in photoshop if you want, then in code. You can even cheat and look at the stylsheet and code by using your browser's "view source" function.

    Translation skills are directly tied to your design skills. Without practicing your design and learning how to execute the ideas in your mind, you won't be able to expand on your skills.

  2. Corey- Awesome post!
    For all newbies I think the way you have mentioned is the best way to start.

    I also want to start afresh in PS and then move on to Illustrator, so I have bookmarked this thread and will read it again later today.
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  3. #3
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    never go for any tutorials.. trial and error method is time consuming but the most effective!

  4. Pretty much agree with everything you've just posted, especially the fact that you have to practice to improve.

    Now i'm no fancy designer but i'm certainly improving and it takes a lot of practice to improve.

    I also find that its better to work on designs for personal projects when you want to improve rather than for made-up ideas or in the attempt to sell it afterwards. When I do design (and code) work for myself, the perfectionist comes out it me and I won't stop until its perfect - even if it involves spending half a day on something as simple as a navbar.

    This definately helps you improve, finding new techniques, forcing yourself to complete it and make it perfect and you'll improve much faster than any tutorial for design (which you aren't designing just replicating).

    Don't forget - take regular breaks and fresh air, view other sites or go for a walk for some inspiration - even in the rain.

  5. #5
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    That's really awesome thread. Still I'm using Dreamweaver to design website. Hope I'll have a good start by hand coding from this concept. Thanx.

  6. #6
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    I would suggest to do some hand sketching to put ideas on paper. Don't be afraid if your sketches don't look exactly as you envisioned them - they are only to put all your ideas on paper for later review. Use scissors to try out different layouts.

    If youre proficient in CSS & HTML try to design in the browser
    Designing in the Browser Patrick Haney, Not a Sausage
    Walls Come Tumbling Down | For A Beautiful Web

    Take a look at this screencast:
    Elliot Jay Stocks » ‘How to design a portfolio site’ screencast

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hrvoje View Post
    I would suggest to do some hand sketching to put ideas on paper. Don't be afraid if your sketches don't look exactly as you envisioned them - they are only to put all your ideas on paper for later review. Use scissors to try out different layouts.
    I agree with your suggestion Hrvoje, I always do a sketch by hand before I start anything and then when I'm happy with the way things look I open photoshop and then I go on from there.
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  8. Quote Originally Posted by Aden View Post
    Pretty much agree with everything you've just posted, especially the fact that you have to practice to improve.
    I recently read in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any complex skill.

    I think that's a pretty good rule of thumb.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will.Spencer View Post
    I recently read in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any complex skill.

    I think that's a pretty good rule of thumb.
    So that's 5 years experience based on a 40 hour work week. Sounds about right.

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