~ / Dan Schlosser / writing /
Design 101, from a Non-Designer

Published on September 25, 2017.

For many, design can seem like magic — a dark art that only few can master. It can be intimidating to learn, especially since many people think that design sense is innate: either you’re born with it or you’re out of luck. (Not true.)

Disclaimer: I’m not a designer. I’m an engineer and product manager but I’ve picked up a few tricks from my colleagues that have helped me hold my own in design reviews and projects.

My perspective is that becoming an advanced designer requires years of practice but that the basics of design is like learning guitar: You only need to learn four simple chords to play a lot of the music from the past 50 years. I’ve collected a few equivalent design fundamentals that have served me well. Most of the examples I’ll use here are from web design (my wheelhouse), but my hope is that you’ll find them broadly applicable.

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