Answers to Common Design Questions

A few quick takes and hot takes about design.

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Around 2 minutes to read

I get a good deal of messages from people asking me questions about design. I try to answer as many as I can, but I’m unable to get to all of them. So, here’s a roundup of my answers to some of the most common questions I receive.

What typeface should I use?

​Neue Haas, GT America, or Pangram Sans. Gothics, grotesks, and geometric sans are so are in right now.

Should I use a grid?

Yep. 12 columns.

How much should I charge for my work?

​Start at $25/hour. Once you feel like your work is worth more than you’re making, double it. Keep doubling until you get to a rate that clients won’t pay, then value price.

What’s wrong with my portfolio?

​It doesn’t say what you want from the viewer. Ditch the meaningless “I create bold experiences for a new world” copy at the top and replace it with something more direct like “I’m looking for a senior designer job at a publishing company” or “I’m looking for new clients who make sustainable vehicles” or something equally specific. If you want something, you gotta ask for it.

Do I need a design system?

If you work at an enterprise: yes. You’re probably reinventing the wheel more than you should.

If you work at a startup: no. Your time is probably best used creating more value for your customers and your investors.

I work at an enterprise and am reinventing the wheel more than I should. I need a design system. Where should I start?

  1. Audit all of your company’s digital products.
  2. Pick a component that appears in 60% of those products.
  3. Create one abstracted version that uses some element (typography, color, radius, hierarchy, etc.) from every version you found.
  4. Put that component in a central repository/library.
  5. Refactor every library/codebase that uses that component to include your new version and issue pull requests.
  6. Beg, borrow, and steal to get teams to accept your pull requests.
  7. Rinse and repeat.

That’s the most successful way I’ve seen to start a design system.

How do I get promoted at my job?

Work on something that directly makes your boss or your company more money. Then tell them often that you did/are doing that and that you could do more of that if you get a better title, more money, and a company credit card.

How can I tell if my startup/product idea is any good?

Put up a landing page this weekend, ask all of your friends to tell their friends about it, and see how many email signups you get.

What colors should go in my color palette?

Black, white, and one strong accent color.

Can the answers to these questions really be so simple?

I mean, most questions can be answered with, “It depends,” but I hate giving that answer. I’d rather give you a definitive starting point even if it’s wrong, because it’s easier to revise than create.

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