How to focus on what matters.

Many times throughout our design careers, we encounter wonderful displays of design simplicity. Products and services we just couldn’t imagine any other way — adding or removing anything would cause the whole to collapse, dysfunction or simply become something totally different to what it is.

The benefits of simplicity are plentiful and obvious when encountered:

  • It creates familiarity and boosts confidence.
  • It creates clarity, reducing ambiguity and human error.
  • It reduces the amount of time and effort necessary for users to get needs met.
  • It increases user productivity and success.


How understanding business leads to effective and valuable design.

Great design is great business

Businesses all over the world exist to serve customers, hoping that their offering will be valuable enough to generate long term profits. Design is a key component in the business process, it sits at the ‘junction’ were customer needs and business objectives meet to produce the goods that customers will ultimately pay for and benefit from.

The overlap of needs and objectives at the junction necessitates careful consideration towards two dependent yet distinct entities with different needs. …


Why dysfunction happens and how to avoid it.

If digital products were like lego castles, you could think of components as the individual, unique lego blocks used to build the castles.

In most companies, it’s typical for component libraries to be a shared responsibility and whilst multiple inputs ensures thorough outcomes, it inevitably brings alignment challenges.

The topic of component libraries is worthy of volumes, in this article I merely scratch the surface in exposing typical challenges and starting points for solving them. Think of this as your sigh of relief as you read and confirm that you’re not alone having component wars.

Designers aren’t using the component library


Dig deep, avoid traps and find green pastures.

The big shots say that a great deal of design is about story telling and pitching; never is that more true than when going through an interview process.

Interviews are tricky because so much goes on simultaneously. The company tries to assess you, but you too have assessments to make. You try to be swift at asking the right questions at the right time and give responses carefully — all whilst analysing if you can see yourself working with the person on the other side.

Gut feeling plays a part too, and whilst there’s no doubt that such feelings should…


How to identify what feedback to give, then give the best you can.

With an array of customer and business needs, technological complexities, and the ice constantly shifting beneath our feet, it’s unlikely that any product designer can hit a home run alone each and every time.

Feedback is a quick and effective way to let ideas fail fast to make way for improvements.

Feedback is based on the premise that other peoples’ point of view may help expose flaws or make valuable contributions. It helps people get out of tunnel vision and see things more objectively; the way others see them.

Perhaps the greatest danger of not giving or receiving feedback is…


How to untangle design dilemmas

When designing products, our thought process can sometimes feel similar to a driver encountering road blocks and taking detours to reach the desired destination. As we’re designing, we pass through countless dilemmas which crop up and get in the way of us reaching our intended outcome.

The space between our starting point and the desired outcome is what design is all about. As we design, detours may be exploratory directions or decisions we make which do not move us closer to the desired outcome in the most intentional and efficient way. …


And how to practice functional UI.

The rise of design portfolio platforms has made it easy for designers of all sorts to showcase their work. We showcase work to build profiles, inspire communities, receive feedback and to gain recognition for our skills.

The benefits of showcasing our work are countless and clear, as a result, we may sometimes think about what we may add to our profile in order to get an edge. When these thoughts kick in, it’s tempting to assume that if our presentation is stunning, then we’d roll some eyeballs and get more of what we want; namely recognition and interest.

Some designers…


Steakhouses, smartphones, and spoons: Truly great products meet our needs and make us better

From a consumer’s perspective, a good product is not necessarily a good-looking product, nor is it a product that solely delivers a frictionless experience. It’s not a bug-free product or a product that gets updated with fixes on a daily basis.

A good product is one that creates dependability by filling a gap in a consumer’s life. The reverse would be a product that could easily be substituted or replaced with another, or one the consumer may easily stop using completely because it never made a difference in their life in the first place.

Great products create a strong “why”


An actionable guide for the design generalist

There’s no doubt that us product design generalists have a lot on our plate. We’re researchers and analysts on some days, experience designers on other days, and pull off anything in between that ultimately effects the customer.

With so many aspects to cater for, it’s easy for us to begin at the wrong place and jump over several steps that would’ve set a solid foundation for better outcomes. Even though the design process is circular and going back and forth is inevitable, I’ve learnt that there are three particular phases that when cycled in a specific order, yield better outcomes…

David Portelli

Product Designer and practicing writer

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