Twelve Shortcuts Designers Should Never Take

Designers can be tempted to cut corners to get the job done. Whether you’re a designer–or a CEO, a product manager, or an engineer who works with designers–you’ll want to watch out for these shortcuts. Great designers don’t need the dark arts to succeed.

The shiny object
Distracting a decision-maker with fancy effects to wallpaper over a mediocre solution. “Don’t worry about the user flows… check this out this sweet parallax effect!”

The mirage
Using ideal photographs, perfect-length names, and carefully written descriptions to make an interface look immaculate.

The under-the-radar
Sneaking design past decision-makers: “Oh boy, if we make any changes we’ll miss our launch date by three weeks. So how about we just launch and see?”

The horse trader
Making trade-offs that have nothing to do with the project at hand: “Sure, we can squeeze another ad in there if you agree to improve the signup flow, too.”

The designer’s veto
Playing the “I’m the designer” card to veto a decision. It’s tempting to shut down a product discussion simply by dint of your job title, but if you can’t explain a design decision in language that other people will understand, you don’t deserve to wear your Ampersandwich T-shirt.

The false facade
Designing a single screen in isolation and getting approval before you’ve really thought things through: “Great, we have sign off! Now we just have to figure everything out.”

The moody artist
Sometimes designers have a reputation akin to artists–passionate geniuses who delve deep into their souls to find creativity. Some designers think this gives them license to act like children. If you have to raise your voice to win a debate, you’ve already lost.

The used-car salesman
Some designers can convince you their work is genius even though it’s going to fail when people use it. “This interaction I’ve invented is genius! Once people get used to it they’ll never look back!”

The fast talker
Not letting people get a word in edgewise during a critique. It’s like skating on thin ice–if you keep moving fast enough, you’ll never fall through.

The jargon master
Using kerning, color theory, UX, IA, HCI, GUI, TLAs, cognitive load, Swiss grids, Fitt’s Law, multivariate tests, and other silly terms to isolate people from the debate. “Trust me, I have an HCI degree and it all makes sense because the leading in the action sheet reduces cognitive load.”

The statistical manipulator
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. “Our [almost impossible to use] mobile site only has 15% month-over-month growth, so let’s jettison it and focus on the thing I’m passionate about!”

The passive aggressive
“Suuure, I’ll try your idea.” Sure you will.

Shared from Co.Design

These alphabets, made from naked men to Beyonce, take the artistic potential of the letterform to its limit.

Check them out on Co.DESIGN

I remember doing print design. I still do some, but it’s mostly specialty work. Now I mostly do online work. One thing I’ve seen is online has really dumbed down beautiful design. With print we may have had a consistent underlying grid, but each page had a unique design and it was thought out as both an individual design and part of the big picture. Web design seems to have thrown this attention to detail out in the name of cost-savings and “efficiency”. It often seems like engineers, who I see as overworked and not the most visually creative creative (nor should they be), driving the design process. The funny thing is it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m amazed that when folks see good web design that follows more traditional design workflows in producing the end product, they say it’s beautiful or amazing. That type of work takes a huge design effort and programmers who don’t whine at everything being a unique element.

So you think UPC & QR codes are ugly? This might change your mind.


How and Print were at one time prestigious design magazines. They may still be. But this horrible newsletter does not reinforce my confidence that they are still in touch with good design. The one I received from Print the other day was even worse. And that MyDesignShop logo, ouch! C’mon guys you need to up your game if your going to remain relevant.

Not sure if this is a creative/design win or fail? I’ve seen too many companies forget to update their “lorem ipsum” placeholder text before going to print that it makes me wonder if this was a mistake or intentional. Kinda funny either way.