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Design Etiquette Toolkit

A collection of tools for designers.


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C.E. McDonald

2 years ago | 5 min read

A collection of tools for designers.

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Hello, and welcome aboard this collective etiquette design journey. When considering the vast array of design knowledge available, something that seemingly gets left out quite often is how etiquette plays a massive role in the creation process.

After a deep brainstorming session and an objective inquiry chalked full of data and design research, a few missing pieces peek out from behind a curtain.

So, instead of making a list and checking it off, let’s have a conversation. This way each person can define their own rules and viewpoints. However, hopefully, some of these design tools will strike a chord within and offer enrichment. Our perspectives guide our design practices.

Before I dive deeply into what creates the backbone of design etiquette from my viewpoint, let me say that depth is defined by the pieces of a puzzle. By bridging the gaps between users, designers, and developers we can tweak and deliver amazing design experiences that utilize simple tools.

Alright, enough chatter. Let’s dive right in. Below you’ll find some delicious ingredients waiting to be discovered, and applied.

Note: Before we jump into this conversation there’s no particular order. Feel free to scan an skim at your leisure.

Now, let's start building our potential toolkit additions.

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First on my etiquette toolkit is Politeness Versus Politics. Finding a polite way to interact, offer suggestions, or improve for change can create a sound internal and external networking system. One that thrives on kindness, and is delivered with class. When we focus too much on office politics we eliminate the very nature of human etiquette. To create a great design we need to master being polite through our practices and interfacing.

We have much ground to cover, so let’s talk about how Composition Creates Clarity. Visually speaking, when design compositions are clearly defined, the result creates clarity for a viewer. Human eyes can only transcribe a message that is composed well. By taking a little extra time with composition details, end products ensure quality outcomes.

For the fun stuff, Permission and Credit, or Law and Order for terminology precision. Part of creating great design means following respected rules laid out before us. In short, if you aren’t sure of terms of use on anything design-related, start digging around and asking for permission versus forgiveness. And, remember to give credit where credit is due.

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The world of Community. How does this play into our etiquette toolkit you might ask? Building a strong community of like-minded peers is a Networking Bonus. When it’s time for feedback, questions, or sharing look no further than your professional network. Those relationships will most of the time engage, remind, influence, or assist in design flows. In other words, teamwork makes the dream work. After all, we're building for a better tomorrow.

One of my favorite topics is how Encouragement Reaps Rewards. When we choose to encourage, we create authentic engagement with others. We open ourselves up to greater knowledge and create a natural give and receive reward system. This builds a positive mindset for growth. Our peers are on our industry team, so let’s play our parts by liking, commenting, and sharing. There’s no time like the present.

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Let’s talk about the Creative Process Leading. Yes, there are rules to follow for great design, but many times rules cloud the creative space. When creativity takes center stage, it opens our minds and expands our reach. By letting creativity become the leader, our designs deliver juicer results. Plus it’s much easier to make necessary tweaks for accessibility and inclusivity after the initial design process has begun.

This tool’s a must-have of mine. Engagement and Listening Come First. When we listen deeply from our senses, we can learn about what genuinely matters to others. We learn why someone might be interested, influenced, or excited about a specific design or product. Alternatively, the listener learns about dislikes, pain points, and potential hiccups about a concept. By deeply engaging with other humans, our stories become heard, decoded, and translated.

Next up, Authentic Visual Components. What design stories are you telling the world through visual originality? Are these designs conveying any new visual language components for users? These are questions to consider when creating authentic designs. Authenticity can be more than expression alone, it can be how a design component relates to new, unique, and fresh perspectives. Please don’t fear out-of-the-box visual authentic representations. Those design components can articulate eloquence to viewers and users.

Tools and people are made to be used, not abused. So let’s rewire the Competition Mindset. Have you ever heard the saying, friend thy neighbor? This saying can be applied here. The design industry has always been packed full of competition, but all things are subject to change. UX (user experience) design has started down a path that carries a mild undertone of peer inclusivity. We talk about building an island, and we need all the necessary elements (people) with diversity for strong structural integration. Breathe out the old mindset of competition, and in with the new, unification.

Another strong tool to add to any design kit is the Feng Shui Flow. Borrowed from Chinese culture: feng shui is a process that speaks to a precise arrangement and orientation of energetic flow. Visual flow is when static, clutter, or yang “spaces” find their yin harmonies. When applying feng shui to any design process, we incorporate visual artifacts with more cohesion. This in turn allows for digital or physical products to harness their natural fluidity and convey balance.

Another point of human development and design is how Inclusivity and Accessibility Matter. This tool carries the most weight for me and acts as the silence of each night. For a better future in design, we have started implementing inclusive elements, and accessible features for diverse backgrounds and abilities. Apply this perspective to all design forethought with heartfelt consideration, and this respect amasses.

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That leads me to the Language of Learning. Many of us in the digital age have meadows full of knowledge at our fingertips. The accessibility of diving into a subject matter and retrieving intelligence has been made easy. However, in design, the value holds its weight. Many times design research needs to be discovered, and we need to learn that language. Learn to love learning, and your journey will become augmented.

Another strong tool to discover is being open to the Open-Minded Mission. Take your biases out of the equation, and replace them with an open mind. It’s much harder to do than it sounds. Begin by allowing biased opinions to be questioned and reflected upon. In design, the more open-minded we can become the less rigid perspectives are internally and externally. Which creates stronger design listeners and more relatable designs.

Lastly, Practice Makes Precision. The old saying was practice makes perfect. But what is perfection? You can mull over that topic with your morning coffee. For conversation's sake let’s re-route our terminology to precision. In short, more practice equates to refined precision results. This tool acts as a reminder for continuous learning. I recommend an appreciation of hours logged developing skills: they aren’t in vain.

Phew, we made it through this laundry list of design etiquette tools. Congratulations if you followed me through to the end. Each morsel of discovery is another piece of your design journey pie.

When these tools are applied with thought and care, results can become an unstoppable force. Choose what speaks to your specific design practice process, and remember what’s created matters. The design industry has the opportunity to influence the greater good.

I look forward to seeing future designs, and how these tools can help designers create premium design deliverables.

Signing off, and wishing you a wonderful design journey.

Feel free to comment, tag, or share this article if it made an impact.

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C.E. McDonald

An inspirational writer advocating for great change. Through a unique vision and cutting-edge content, I offer my readers thought-provoking creative solutions that answer the big whys and hows.


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