How To Learn Design as a Developer: Read Time 5 Mins


Hmmm....designs? I am sure you might give me a weird question mark on why the hell should I learn about designs?

I'm not a fashion designer, architect and the last thing I had checked I'm a developer. 

Relax... don't worry I'm not asking you to design something like Van Gogh or Picasso's work.

Let me explain why is there a need for us to understand design as a developer?

Why Should I Care About Design?

First of all, we as developers like to develop stuff to solve problems correct?

Who is the targeted person when we develop software for? come on.... it starts with the letter H.

Think harder ...yes it's humans, sure you might say that my work does not involve a user but instead is used by a computer or a machine . That's true but ultimately your software will be used to solve a problem that might be related to humans, not computers think Uber, Google, Facebook, Lazada, Youtube. 

Design in our Daily Lives

Most of our technological innovations are a focus on humans to make us do work better, faster, cheaper, effective or just plain for fun.

As design has played a huge part in our daily lives. From how we do things on a daily basis from riding a bus, opening a door, taking a walk to watch youtube videos or just shopping. The design is everywhere visible or invisible. 

Categories of Design for Developer

Design education is quite wide, so I will just be distilling down.

What are the categories about design when I first started to learn about designs during my university and after working as a developer?

The Fundamentals   

Fundamentals talk about philosophy, history and basic knowledge, practices from colour theory to what has been popular in recent years called "Design Thinking" that is promoted by startups or education providers. 

Personally, I would suggest you go for design thinking or user experiences courses. Which could be useful for a developer to learn to solve a problem or design a better user experience for the user.

Design Practices 

It incorporates the fundamentals knowledge, you had learnt into practices that you use on a daily basis for your own work. 

Like the use of a paper prototype to convey your understanding of the problem, A/B testing to gather information about new design features for better user experience. 

Conducting design sprints which are used by Google to help to create innovative products or services.

Design Tools

This is your bread and butter tools that you used on a daily basis to practice your craft used to create designs, mockups, prototypes. 

It could range from design tools like Photoshop, wireframe tools like MockFlow, Balsamiq, Sketch or just collaborative design tools like Figma

This is the sort of designs that are popular among marketers, designers, UX designers, mobile app developers or front-end developers or full stack developers like me. 

As an example, there is a trend for the use of designing voice assistant applications for Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana.

Design systems which incorporate an understanding of one's branding, typography, colours schemes, icon libraries or individual interactive components. 

Which could be adopted by developers and front-end developers to create prototypes or user interfaces that are aesthetically appealing for people to use. 

Take for example material design or flat design that is commonly used in desktop, mobile apps and website designs.


Personally, I would take up courses that talks about design thinking or user experience as a primer for understanding design concepts.

Once I had learnt the fundamental design concepts, I will look for design tools that help out in my work.

Which in my case is the use of Mockflow, Figma to develop prototypes and mockups of the actual design I would like to emulate?

To save time and effort, you can consider the purchasing or get ready-made designs like website templates, dashboards, design components to speed up development time. 

If you are freelancing or just wants to become productive as a developer.

Lastly learn to immerse yourself with design, by going to art galleries, museums can help to train yourself to have a keen eye for designs like the Red Dot Museum which I went to this week.

Intro to The Design of Everyday Design

DesignBetter.Co Library

Design Thinking

How To Design Voice User Interfaces

Design Systems Handbook

Red Dot Museum

Design Sprint