Designers are famous for using drawings, diagrams, and mockups to tackle problems visually.
However, visual problem solving makes it far too simple to chase dead ends on more complex problems. Instead, I believe that beginning projects with writing and using writing as a tool for thinking are pretty beneficial.
We can focus on strategic problem solving instead of getting lost in sketches and mockups when we think through a problem with writing.
Staying at a high level, focusing on strategy, identifying and understanding challenges, communicating and discussing with collaborators, and prioritizing attention are all benefits of thinking via writing.
Writing can help designers become better communicators and make their presentation skills better
We are usually focused only on showing the outcome of our work in the portfolio: UI's and mockups. Remember the last portfolio of a designer you've looked at: it contains the project, contact info, and that's about it.
We focus mainly on design outcomes and graphic elements, while written work is minimal.
The hard work behind each project becomes invisible. I'm sure you're spending most of the project researching, identifying the problem, and talking to users.
Showing the behind-the-scenes of the project helps showcase the process and the way of thinking, which is more important than the outcome of the work.
Writing is essential to design - perfect for documenting the processes, showing your work to your wider team, or even the entire world.
Writing in the design process
In the beginning, we think of design as something visual. Writing never comes up as an essential skill for designers to help make the user experience better.
Still, when you open a new safari tab, you'll see "Search "or enter website name" in the search field. The fact that you're not left with an empty box shows that writing is as important as the visuals and is a big part of the product experience, making writing a valuable skill for designers.
Writing helps designers to create user-friendly and organized content. Thought writing designers can organize and plan the designs during the wireframing process. Writing allows designers to express their ideas and communicate their work to executives.
Every Product Has a Voice
In his talk "Every Product Has a Voice" at Awwwards, former product design lead at Dropbox, Ben Hersh introduces three core pillars of wiring for digital products:
- Be clear
- Be a friend
- Be expressive
These three create a structure of needs where each layer is built on top of another.
- You can't have a conversation if it's not clear because there's no point
- You can't have a strong personality without being supportive, being a friend
- You can't be a signal in a world of noise without expressing your voice
If you take a clear statement and put it in a friendly way, it connects much better. You can make it truly meaningful if you do it at the right time with the right personality.
Writing makes the products easy to use. The product's written content helps users navigate the workflows with ease and complete their jobs faster and without frustration.
How to improve your writing skills as a designer?
When young designers ask this question, I often follow up with a similar question:
"How did Mozart become one of the most influential composers in history?"
Deliberate practice every day for a long time. That is a key to learning any skill, including writing.
Thinking with writing
On the high level, ideas are just sparks between the neurons in your brain. They're rough and shapeless. By writing them down, you materialize them into a physical form. Now you can revise and organize them to uncover their full potential. Written ideas are also much easier to share and get feedback to improve and make them crisp.
How to do it
Organize and support your main idea.
- Think of a design problem you need to tackle.
- Write it down.
- Write out supportive ideas around your main idea.
- Once you have enough ideas, you can combine/prioritize them.
Understanding with writing
We all heard before that the best way to learn something is to explain the idea to someone else. But sometimes, you don't have anyone around, or the idea was not yet clarified in your mind. To speed up the understanding of the concept, write down what you have learned.
Summarize the idea and list the key points/ways to apply the new concept.
How to do it:
Use the Feynman Technique. It's a learning framework that forces you to develop a deep, elegant understanding of a given topic. It involves four key steps:
- Choose a concept you want to learn about
- Explain it to a 12-year-old
- Reflect, Refine, and Simplify
- Organize and Review
Communicate with writing
For me, writing became the primary way of communication with clients and team members for more than eight years when I started working remotely.
Whether sharing an idea, providing an update, or convincing others of the value of my idea, we need to write our message for the most significant impact carefully.
How to do it:
Read it aloud.
- Next time you write, whether it's an email or any other type of writing, read it aloud to yourself.
- If you find yourself stumbling and not clear in your meaning, rewrite.
- Keep rewriting it until you are happy with the clarity and tone for your audience.
- A few minutes spent revising your writing will profoundly affect the impact you can make.
Where to start
Here are some valuable resources to help you along your writing journey.
You can also check out my post Microcopy in Design to learn how to write microcopy for product design.
The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition — Strunk, and White
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Every product has a voice
Every product has a voice. It’s a voice that is created by our brains in the process of interaction with the software.
This is a great tool to help you proofread your work to make it clear, compelling, and mistake-free.
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