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Visual Design Essentials for Non-Designers

Overcome the mystique of good visual design with solid techniques

Dan Rubin

Dan Rubin
Co-founder of Webgraph

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What’s the breakdown of the day?

Morning: The Designer’s Thought Process

Dan starts by showing you the creative brief from the designer’s viewpoint. What are the project’s goals and priorities? What are all the great (and maybe not-so-great) design ideas that pop into your mind? How do you explore your options?

Dan will demonstrate proven brainstorming techniques. You’ll get your ideas on paper rapidly, learning to do it by yourself and when you’re working with collaborators. Prepare to be dazzled as Dan shares his tricks and techniques for creating color palettes from your brands, the emotions you want to express, and existing images that have the feel you’re seeking.

Next up: Taking the work out of design. Dan will reveal his tricks for creating the underlying systems that make production design quick and straightforward. He’ll walk you through the PDD (Page Description Diagram) that shows the basic page layouts—matching the goals from your earlier brainstorming.

Dan will let you in on the designer’s secret: creating reusable grid, color, and typography systems. You’ll see how much simpler the design process gets when you have effective systems to apply to each page.

Afternoon: Use the information from the morning and start designing.

Dan will show you the role visual design plays as you create the interactive portions of your design. You’ll see how integrating patterns easily creates a consistently sharp looking site, where every element feels like it was designed to be there.

Action and intent—that’s what the great designers focus on. Dan will show you techniques for translating the ideas and systems of the morning into a design that matches your users intent and drives the right actions.

Once you have these essentials under your belt, Dan will prepare you for the final challenge: working effectively along side talented designers. You’ll learn techniques for managing the process, such as putting together your own creative brief, the best way to look at interim designs, and how to deliver a constructive critique. Dan will show you the pitfalls to avoid when hiring a designer and tricks for collaborating with non-designers who want to share their ideas.

You’ll love the interactive exercises Dan built into the workshop. You’ll go past the theory and try your hand at designing. It won’t be long before you have your “Eureka, I can do this!” moment. We’re betting it’ll happen before the morning break and repeat regularly throughout the day.

Does your team face these problems?

  • You’re responsible for the design, but you’re not a trained designer
  • You don’t feel like you know what the next steps are, or when the project will be done.
  • The designer you’re working with isn’t producing the designs you’d like to see.
  • Your design process takes longer than it should, with too much back-and-forth on seemingly unimportant things.
  • You don’t feel confident when expressing what you want to see from the designs.
  • You’d like to come to the project with better-formed ideas on what the site should be like.

Why visual design essentials for non-designers?

If you’re not a visual designer, why do you need to know the essentials? Here are four reasons:

First, high-quality visual design is more than just sharp colors and pretty pictures. It’s about how your design communicates with your audience. The ideal visual design will attract the users eyes to the most important elements, while letting less important items become obvious when the user needs them. You’ll learn what it takes to create a visual look and feel that best meets your users’ needs.

Move beyond good looks to a design that works perfectly for your users.

Second, if you’re not designing yourself, it’s likely you’ll work with a visual designer. (Maybe you’ll even be responsible for hiring them?) Visual design comes with a rich language that describes what’s happening on the page. You’ll master the designer’s vocabulary for describing what you’d like the design to do. Things go better when you speak the same language.

Third, knowing what goes into a creative brief makes everyone’s life easier. The creative brief is the master document that guides a visual design project. A well-constructed brief becomes the bible, guiding the project quickly to success. Poorly put-together briefs can delay projects and run up costs. Dan’s techniques for effective briefs will get your projects off to the right start.

Finally, there’s a rhythm to well-run visual design projects. There’s a back-and-forth between designer and client, a cycle of iterations, and a give-and-take of new ideas and critical thinking. Knowing what happens next and how to keep things moving is essential. Dan will help you be prepared at every step, so your projects keep humming.

Dan’s workshop is perfect for anyone who needs to groove up on visual design know-how.

How will visual design essentials make you a hero?

If this was just about making you look like a designer, then all you need to do is dress in black turtlenecks and utter phrases like “W00t” and “FTW!” (Don’t ask us what that stuff means. We just know they all say it when they are happy.)

Take control of your visual design projects and deliver awesome results.

This is more than that. It’s about having a solid foundation and understanding of what it takes to create great looking and effective visual designs, whether you’re working alongside a designer or tackling parts of the project yourself.

Learn to create a great experience for your users through a design that says exactly what it needs to when it needs to. You’ll speed up your design and development process, by establishing reusable visual design systems, like a grid system, a typographic system, and a color palette. New pages and elements now come together quickly and easily, making everything look like it belongs together.

Take control of your design process. You’ll know how to kickoff each project, confidently discussing your design needs and exploring your options. You’ll see how to give feedback on each design iteration, helping the designer refine and improve the work.

Your team will marvel while your designs reach a new level of sophistication, on time, and on budget.

What makes this session exciting?

After last year’s workshop, the attendees were bubbling over with excitement. It was like they’d just acquired a new superpower and they couldn’t wait to try it out.

“Design used to scare me. No more.”

They loved discovering how easy it is to create a simple sketch—the kind that is perfect for brainstorming and sharing ideas. They enjoyed picking up some quick-and-easy Photoshop timesavers that the pros use.

Yet they were most excited when Dan showed them how good visual design has little to do with article talent and ability. Instead, it has to do with critical thinking, problem solving, and the consistent application of rules—things the workshop participants already knew how to do, just not for visual design problems.

Once you realize that you don’t need to attend a Hogwarts-style Dark Arts class to learn how to create great visual designs, you’re freed to produce brilliant work. Knowing the essentials brings your collaboration with your visual designer to new levels.

Now, that’s exciting!

Why did we pick this presenter?

It’s simple. Dan loves to design and he’s awesomely good at it. (One of the best on the web, in fact.) Dan also loves to teach and he’s awesome at that too. The combination makes for a fabulous day.

Dan is one of the best web designers we know and an awesome instructor.

Dan’s superpower is demystifying dark arts. You’ll love it every time he shares one of the “little dirty secrets” known only by designers. He’ll reveal mysteries you’ve always wondered about, like how you unclutter a design or choose the right colors. Last year’s workshop participants just raved about the session. They loved Dan’s accessible approach to design.

We’re glad Dan can get away from his busy work client work, creating some of the web’s hottest properties, to deliver this workshop for you. His work at Webgraph keeps him busy, plus he’s constantly hopping across the globe to share is skills with designers everywhere. Make sure you don’t miss this opportunity.

What’s the next step?

If Dan’s workshop isn’t quite what you’re looking for, explore the other 7 workshops. There’s also a whole day of Featured Talks with all the UI15 experts.