(How) Do you improve your creativity/designer skills?

davidszabo97 profile image Dávid Szabó ・1 min read

Hey dev.to-ers!

I was wondering how other people overcome creativity problems as being a programmer.

I have a few sideprojects and I have no idea how to start creating a logo or user interface for them.

Recently I have been playing around in adobe illustator, putting together a few logos and web designs.... and I LOVE DOING IT!

What's a proper way to get into the graphic/design world as programmer?
Does it worth it?
How do you get graphics for your hobby projects?


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I'm not sure how it happened but I stumbled upon Steve Schoger on Twitter ages ago and I am so glad I did. He posts lots of super helpful tips that can take an OK design to something great.

He recently released a book called Refactoring UI which contains all the design knowledge he and Adam Wathan have acquired up until now. I have found it an incredible resource!

A few specific resources though which I have found helpful for projects too:

  • unDraw: Open-source illustrations for every project you can imagine and create
  • Font Awesome: Super extensive icon library
  • Hero Patterns: Custom SVG patterns - this is also by Steve

OK, that lady who did unDraw is crazy.... She is awesome to making all these accessible for everyone!

Thanks for these suggestions, they are awesome!

I've been thinking about buying Refactoring UI for a while, I've seen it before and I feel like I should get the book.... Do you own a copy? How good is it?


Yeah, unDraw is an amazing resource. I've been working on two new websites recently with a few images from that site. I plan to use several more in the near future.

Yep, I own a copy of Refactoring UI and I find it great! It is over 200 pages with sections talking about how to start a design, how to work out hierarchy of elements in the design, layout & spacing, working with text (eg. fonts, line length, link colours), using shadows and working with images.

It is great to look through at many different stages of a project. It helps with inspiration but also helps with polishing up something you've already built.


Just to get this started, here is one of the design I have created.
The browser illustration and icons are purchased assets though :)


Sorry to come late to this. I have a background in design (I've worked in different fields related to design and advertising during the past 13 years) and I can give you some tips.

First of all, you need to separate technical skills from design skills.

Technical skills are mostly related to software and tools (Illustrator, indesign, photoshop, bla bla bla). Some people tend to confuse being a designer with being good with photoshop / illustrator.

Now, as for design skills, I'd highly encourage you to learn visual communication first. UI and Web design, like graphic design, are based on a set of principles and rules. Learning 'that language' first it's the correct approach if you are interested in improving your knowledge in that field. I always recommend this book, A Primer of Visual Literacy -by Donis A. Dondis. Probably not the best, but it's very easy to follow and a good start.

Design in general is a thrilling field, but there is a lot of misconception and misinformation out there. It's pretty easy make things to look pretty, but good design is a serious matter and like every other field takes years and training to get good at it. The best way to start training your 'designer eye' is start looking at graphic design history and understand where and when was born what we call Visual communication today, why it's important and how can we use it.

Answering your question, is it worth it? Absolutely! You don't need to become a designer, or who knows, maybe you discover your passion and switch careers! One way or another, it will give you another way of seeing things.

And the last tip. To improve your creativity, follow this simple exercise every time you are doing something.

  1. Use pen and paper.
  2. Write down (or draw) a minimum of 20 different approachs. Don't worry about quality. Just force yourself to do those 20. If 20 are too hard, try to make variations of the same. But important to do that on paper!!
  3. Let those 20 rest, and focus on other task during the next hour.
  4. Come back to the old task and create another 20 without looking the 20 before.
  5. Focus on another task during the next hour.
  6. Get your 40 variations / versions and now it's time to filter. Cross over those that doesn't WORK (<- this is important, doesn't work it's not the same as I don't like it). You need to have a clear idea of what do you want to accomplish or convey with what you are doing. If you filter your work with "like or don't like", that's not design.
  7. Once you filtered good solutions with bad solutions. Take what works and try to create a new version with the good things you have in your filtered solutions. This will be your first set of proposals for your task here.
  8. If for some reason, final result doesn't work at all. Rise and repeat.

So, the steps are these: First we enter in a divergent phase, no judgement here. The idea is create as much as posible, without thinking if it is good or it's not. Next phase is convergent, and we filter. That's how creativity really works ;)

I hope it helps! If you need something or want to ask anything, just send me a pm or in this same thread! I'll be happy to answer!


I bookmarked this just today:

Sarah Drasner created a whole course on design for devs


Looks good, I'll definitely check it out! Thanks!