You vs. Robot: Showing your work and proof of soul
PLUS: Digging in to the new Practical UI book
Designing for Delight
A @tinystride publication
Happy Sunday 🌞. After another week of dizzying new AI releases, let’s slow things down and talk about the single greatest moat for designers waking up to a future surrounded by super-intelligent robots.
You vs. Robot: Showing Your Work and Proof of Soul
My favorite designers have one thing in common: they show their work.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that designers will find themselves competing with superhuman creativity robots in the future. Showing your work might be the single greatest moat you have.
Showing your work is showing proof of soul.
Process videos with your hands doing work. Works in progress that put your thinking on display. Speaking openly about creative struggle.
AI art and design is soulless. After the hype, disillusionment will set in as AI tooling hastens a reversion to the mean. Demand for design with soul will be insatiable.
When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.
Designers will need moats other than stunning visuals, even if they’re collaborating with robots. Something the robots can’t touch: their humanity.
The funny thing? This has probably always been the case. Now it’s just easier to see.
It’s tempting to think you can’t share your work when you’re under non-disclosure agreements, or the work is boring, or not flashy. Let’s reframe that.
First: your work as a designer is more than just visuals. Your taste, your thinking, your process—that’s all your work. Writing, curation, and process videos all count. That’s the approach I’m taking right now since my work is under wraps: taste, thinking, process.
And secondly, if you’re not able to share design artifacts from your job, you can expand your work to include permissionless redesigns or side projects—then share that.
should i mint this?
— 0xDesigner (@0xDesigner)
Mar 9, 2023
@0xDesigner has gone on to do just that, to great success. Inspiring.
I’ve been on the internet long enough to remember when people called stuff like this “unsolicited redesigns”. Professional designers sometimes derided them. You don’t have all the context. How dare you?
“Permissionless” is far better branding than “unsolicited”. It flips the frame from “you don’t have the right” to “you don’t need the right”. It’s empowering to entry-level and senior designers alike.
Ironically, what makes permissionless work so interesting is the fact that the designer doesn’t have the proper context. That gives them a small advantage over the designer who actually shipped the work. The beginner’s mind, untethered by tradition, is a precious resource.
Here are 6 designers who demonstrate the power of working in public on the internet. In one of these, you might find the seeds of an approach to working in public that works for you.
Andrea Conway is redesigning Twitter, on Twitter
Andrea Conway is sharing redesigns of the Twitter UI online. But there’s a twist: Andrea works at Twitter. Andrea engages with questions and suggestions in the comments, concedes weaknesses in the app UI, and replies after incorporating suggestions from followers.
Image: Andrea Conway on Twitter
Fons Mans is honing stunning visual design with dazzling patterns, gradients, and typography
Fons Mans quickly built a name for himself by sharing stunning visual experiments at a rapid pace on his timeline. After building trust and reputation in the design community, Fons leveraged his effort online to go independent and build a community of designers called 10x Designers.
Image: Fons Mans on Twitter
Soren Iverson dances between the genius and the absurd
Soren Iverson’s delightful exploratory feature ideas have achieved meme status and inspired many copycats. First, they make you laugh, then they make you think: what if?
Image: Soren Iverson on Twitter
Grace Walker regularly shares work from her independent studio
Grace Walker runs an independent design studio and regularly shares client work on Twitter. Many designers hesitate to share their work because they worry it needs lots of explanation and context-setting. Grace’s threads prove that a single screenshot for each project, a minimal description, and a link to the site does the job well.
Image: Grace Walker on Twitter
Jordan Hughes shares concept UI built with his Figma component library Untitled UI almost every. single. day. His work demonstrates the flexibility of his design system, so it’s effective as a marketing tool and lets him hone his craft in public.
Image: Jordan Hughes on Twitter
Devin Fountain redesigned the Webflow sidebar in a Tweet
Devin Fountain shared a permissionless redesign of the Webflow sidebar. This example is fun because everyone can see the opportunities it opened up for Devin in real time. David Hoang, head of design at Webflow, reached out in the replies offering to collaborate.
Image: Devin Fountain on Twitter
Each of these designers is worth following because they’re humans on a creative arc, showing proof of soul in the process. None of them are at risk of being outsourced to AI, because their perspective is unique—and they’re sharing it. They’re one in a million. Just like you.
A NEW DESIGN RESOURCE I’M LOVING
Practical UI: A rich new resource for UI designers
Image: Practical UI
The design community seems to agree. Adham’s release hit the top 10 on the Product Hunt home page… the same week ChatGPT-4 was released. No small feat.
Practical UI is a great primer for novice designers or engineers looking to improve their design skills—but it’s also sufficiently thorough that even seasoned designers will find it helpful to hone their craft and pick up new tricks.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.
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