May 2016 was when I started my design journey. start yours today!

Hello guys, My name is Henry and I am a Human-centered design advocate, The founder of a growing design agency in Lagos Nigeria, SENPAI, and I’m passionate about building a community of human-centered designers, developers, and creators. Hope this article helps you achieve greater things.

Designers have been in a very awkward space for a while now, stuck between pixel-pushers and font warriors. but things have begun to change as there are a “new” breed of designers breaking the barrier of mediocrity and stepping to the field to tackle bigger problems with “design thinking”. This is a trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, designers are now taking the driver’s seat of innovation and we expect to see an increase in designers and the appreciation of design in the next couple of years.

So how do you get started as a designer in 2018?

1. Have a lot of empathy

Designers are simply people that have train themselves in the art of applying empathy to solve other people problems. This is the first step in the design thinking process.

In Design Thinking, empathy is, as explained in IDEO’s Human-Centred Design Toolkit, a “deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for”. It involves learning about the difficulties people face, as well as uncovering their latent needs and desires in order to explain their behaviors. To do so, we need to have an understanding of the people’s environment, as well as their roles in and interactions with their environment.

This the foundation of every great designer and I would recommend we all spend more time here. here are some steps to help everyone gain more empathy for the people they are designing for

  • Abandon Your Ego
  • Adopt Humility
  • Be a Good Listener
  • Hone Your Observation skills
  • Care

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

  • Be Curious
  • Be Sincere
  • Ask What? How? Why?

2. Learn to see and draw

Before you begin to learn any design tools or any of the fundamentals of design you have to begin to train yourself to see good design and also be comfortable sketching as you would need this skill for rapid prototyping. These two are very important.

Learn to see

Looking back to when I first started designing, if there was a single thing I could go back and tell myself, that would be to train my design eye, my ability to critique and identify good design. — Jonathan Z. White

I personally learned how to see design by reading up about the design laws that apply to photography and also by following and being emerged with what I felt was good design.

Seeing not a passive act, but a conscious act of figuring out why something looks nice and why you may consider it to be good design.

It’s important to note the 10 principles of good design as you spend time looking and training your eyes.

Ten principles for good design by Dieter Rams

  1. Good design is innovative
  2. Good design makes a product useful
  3. Good design is aesthetic
  4. Good design makes a product understandable
  5. Good design is unobtrusive
  6. Good design is honest
  7. Good design is long-lasting
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Good design is environmentally-friendly
  10. Good design is as little design as possible

Learn to draw

As a designer, you would have to be able to work with a vast amount of creative tools. but your most reliable tool would always be a pen and a paper. So you have to learn to get comfortable sketching out your ideas. I by no means expect you to start drawing portraits and crazy figures but you should be able to use simple lines and shapes to get your ideas into the world fast.

would recommend these resources

get the book You Can Draw in 30 days

How to Learn to Draw: Stage One, Manual Skills
We all used to draw as kids. It was easy back then, no matter if you used color pencils, a stick, or your finger on a…

A quick beginner’s guide to drawing
6 drawing exercises to get you started right now!

3. Learn how to solve problems like a designer ( design thinking )

Designers are basically problem solvers. Your job as a design to apply the tools you have to solve problems. A global design company, IDEO, have created a system for design thinking that can be learnt and applied by anyone and everyone.


Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown, President and CEO of IDEO

How to apply design thinking to your problem-solving process?


The first stage of the Design Thinking process is to gain an empathic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. This involves consulting experts to find out more about the area of concern through observing, engaging and empathizing with people to understand their experiences and motivations, as well as immersing yourself in the physical environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved. Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process such as Design Thinking, and empathy allows design thinkers to set aside his or her own assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into users and their needs.

Define (the problem)

During the Define stage, you put together the information you have created and gathered during the Empathise stage. You will analyze your observations and synthesize them in order to define the core problems that you and your team have identified up to this point. You should seek to define the problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.


During the third stage of the Design Thinking process, designers are ready to start generating ideas. You’ve grown to understand your users and their needs in the Empathise stage, and you’ve analyzed and synthesized your observations in the Define stage, and ended up with a human-centered problem statement. With this solid background, yourself and your team members can start to ‘think outside the box’ to identify new solutions to the problem statement you’ve created, and you can start to look for alternative ways of viewing the problem.


The design team will now produce a number of inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or specific features found within the product, so they can investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous stage. Prototypes may be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or on a small group of people outside the design team. This is an experimental phase, and the aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages.


Designers or evaluators rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during the prototyping phase. This is the final stage of the 5 stage-model, but in an iterative process, the results generated during the testing phase are often used to redefine one or more problems and inform the understanding of the users, the conditions of use, how people think, behave, and feel, and to empathize. Even during this phase, alterations and refinements are made in order to rule out problem solutions and derive as deep an understanding of the product and its users as possible.

for more about design thinking check out these resources

5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process
Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely…

Design Thinking
Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer's toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at…

Design Kit
Design Kit is’s platform to learn human-centered design, a creative approach to solving the world’s most…

4. Learn the fundamentals of design

The fundamentals of design consist of the elements and the principles of design

Design elements

  • line
  • shape
  • form
  • texture
  • color

I would recommend you watch this video below :)

Principles of design

  1. BALANCE — Balance in design is similar to balance in physics. A large shape close to the center can be balanced by a small shape close to the edge. Balance provides stability and structure to a design. It’s the weight distributed in the design by the placement of your elements.
  2. PROXIMITY — Proximity creates a relationship between elements. It provides a focal point. Proximity doesn’t mean that elements have to be placed together, it means they should be visually connected in some way.
  3. ALIGNMENT — Allows us to create order and organization. Aligning elements allows them to create a visual connection with each other.
  4. REPETITION — Repetition strengthens a design by tying together individual elements. It helps to create association and consistency. Repetition can create rhythm (a feeling of organized movement).
  5. CONTRAST — Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements (opposite colors on the color wheel, or value light/dark, or direction — horizontal/vertical). Contrast allows us to emphasize or highlight key elements in your design.
  6. SPACE — Space in art refers to the distance or area between, around, above, below, or within elements. Both positive and negative space are important factors to be considered in every design.

The principles of design
The elements and principles of design are the building blocks. The elements of design are the things that make up a…

Now you are officially a designer and have learned the basics of design.

5. Now time to specialize in an area of design

There are different types of designers, most designers would have to wear multiple hats some just specialize in one. but here are your options for 2018.

Graphic Design

This is a term that describes an array of different kinds of designers. Think of it like the term “entrepreneur”. It describes a wide variety of businesspeople — from founders to VC’s to “Chief Ninjas” — but isn’t all-inclusive. Graphic designers work with graphical images, whether they be illustrations, typography, or images, and on a variety of media including print and web. Graphic design is typically rendered in 2D — printed on a physical surface or displayed on a screen but not limited to 2D.

As a graphic designer, you can specialize in the following

  • Logo design
  • Brand design
  • Print Designer

Interaction Design

Interaction designers, on the other hand, focus on digital products and interactive software design. Some examples include web apps like Facebookand Pinterest, mobile apps like Tweetbot, and operating systems like OS X. While graphic design is meant to be observed, interaction design helps humans experience or manipulate software or interface with screen-based hardware in order to achieve specific goals — checking email, withdrawing money from an ATM, or “Liking” a webpage (such as this one!)

“Interaction design is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires
of the people who will use the product.”

and can be broken down into two parts or the same whole

  • UI design — User interface design
  • UX design — User experience design

↳ User Interface Design

User Interface (UI) design is the design of software or websites with the focus on the user’s experience and interaction. The goal of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible. Good user interface design puts emphasis on goals and completing tasks, and good UI design never draws more attention to itself than enforcing user goals.

“The design process must balance technical functionality and visual elements to create a system that is not only operational but also usable and adaptableto changing user needs.”

↳ User Experience Design

User Experience (UX) design “incorporates aspects of psychology, anthropology, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design and cognitive science. Depending on the purpose of the product, UX may also involve content design disciplines such as communication design, instructional design, or game design.”

The goal of UX design is to create a seamless, simple, and useful interaction between a user and a product, whether it be hardware or software. As with UI design, user experience design focuses on creating interactions designed to meet or assist a user’s goals and needs.

Industrial Design

Industrial designers create physical products designated for mass-consumption by millions of people. Motorcycles, iPods, toothbrushes, and nightstands are all designed by industrial designers. These people are masters of physical goods and innovation within the constraints of production lines and machines.

“The objective is to study both function and form, and the connection between product, the user, and the environment.”

Spatial design

Spatial design focuses upon the flow of people between multiple areas of interior and exterior environments and delivers value and understanding how user interact with spaces and also how the spaces affect the user’s emotions, perceptions, and feelings.

It goes really deep into understanding how space affects the humans in them

You can specialize in the following

  • Architecture
  • Interior design
  • Service design
  • Landspace design

6. Pick and learn your design tools

As design has started to evolve so have our tools. The basic tool all designers need is a pen and a piece of paper. If you are going more technical there are a vast amount of tools to choose from. here are my suggestions.

Graphic designers: Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

UX/UI designersAdobe XDfigma,Invision studio,sketch

I cant recommend for the rest as I do not have much expertise in those areas. Feel free to comment the tools for Industrial and spatial designers.

As you can see we picked the design tools after learning all about design. The problem with designers of the past is that they skip steps 1–5 and go straight to the tools and think they are now designers.

No, you only know how to use a tool you are not a designer. at least not yet.

7. Learn the business of design

As a creative, we often find it difficult talking about money or interacting with clients. Well, we would need to spend time learning about business. I would recommend non-other that TheFutur. Chris Do is doing an amazing job giving us free business tips and teach us how to navigate the industry.

The Futur: Revolutionizing Business Education for Creative Professionals
We’ve walked in your shoes. We graduated from design schools, fought tooth and nail for freelance gigs, established…

8. Build your portfolio

Get busy working and designing and building your portfolio

How do you build a portfolio if you’re just starting out for the first time? The good news is you don’t need to work on real projects with real clients to build a portfolio. Make up your own side projects. Here are a few ideas:

  • Design silly ideas for t-shirts.
  • Find poorly designed websites and redesign them.
  • Got an idea for an iPhone app? Mock it up.
  • Join a team at Startup Weekend and be a designer on a weekend project.
  • Enter a 99 designs contest to practice designing to a brief.
  • Do the graphic design exercises in the Creative Workshop book.
  • Find a local nonprofit and offer to design for free.

Resist the temptation to include everything you’ve ever designed in your portfolio. This is a place for your strongest work only.

Steal, steal, steal at first. Don’t worry about being original — that will come later, once you are more comfortable with your craft. When you learn a musical instrument, you learn how to play other people’s songs before composing your own. Same goes for design. Steal like an artist.

Go to Dribbble for inspiration on some of the best designers. Check out pttrnsfor iOS inspiration, and patterntap for website inspiration.

9. Get your first design job

Once you have a solid portfolio you can start looking for jobs or you can let jobs look for you by building a social media presence or portfolio sites like dribbble and behance and by sharing your works on social media.

The biggest factor to boost your employability is to be able to work with developers. Learn some interaction design. Learn some basic HTML and CSS. Designers in the tech industry (interaction designers, web designers, app designers) are in extremely high demand and are paid well. That’s where the jobs are right now.

I personally have started my journey learning how to design with code.(take it from me it’s not as hard as you expect)

I started it out of frustration but since starting i’ve gain a lot more insight as too what is possible with code and now I’m pushing to become a full stack developer and a human-centered designer. This isn’t for everyone but if you like to write code and also want to be a designer you can be both, this would make getting jobs easier for you most of the times.

SOURCE – UX Planet

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