First time I see 12+ comments below this fresh thread, which makes me think.... .... ... .. DN IS ALIVE!
Didn't take much either. All it took was a few people having a back and forth, sharing their opinions. If we all do more of that, this place will be far more alive.
There are many, many smart people here, with very deep bodies of knowledge. It would be doing our profession a major disservice if we just let that rot away.
Don't get your hopes up ;)
edit: I'm being playful btw.
I think it's simpler for a junior to tackle a Spotify redesign than a Non-profit.
My thinking is because:
• They know the tool
• Everyone knows the tools
• The feature set is pretty standardised
• The brand is familiar, fun, and replicable
• The content (album covers, name, artist, etc. meta data) is all easily obtainable and looks good.
• They can show off their music taste whilst also designing
I'm not saying doing a non-profit is not a better us of the time. But redesigning Spotify is a simpler task.
These discussions seems to have zeroed in on the Junior aspect of my original comment, which — ironically — I only added as a kind of a throwaway side thought, rather than the main reason I posted the article.
In saying that, it's actually a really interesting discussion to have. It's also given me a chance to really put some thoughts I have had about the topic to words. Sorry if it sounds like I'm banging on.
With regard to your points - Sure. That is all true, it is a more accessible exercise. That I don't disagree with at all. Not just for Juniors but all designers. Otherwise there wouldn't be so many of them. I'm just of the opinion that spending time on the simpler and more accessible exercise doesn't nessessarily make better designers. I'd argue it wouldn't look as good for a junior to have a portfolio filled with context free, unsolicited redesigns compared to one with some real world projects. Whether those projects are success' or failures. There are far more lessons to learn in that process, and far more to show for your efforts.
That was mostly the angle I was coming from, but perhaps I poorly explained that?
This actually all brings up one of my great frustrations with our field in recent years. Seemingly, there seems to be this idea amongst people entering the profession — and some of those giving advice to them — that doing this kind of "redesign" work, and then posting to Instagram, Dribbble, or Medium, will get you hired by the very companies they are "redesigning". It probably won't. In fact, statistically, it almost certainly won't. For every person who does a "redesign" and gets hired from it, there are hundreds, if not thousands who won't.
The point of posting this article (I'm not the author) was more about helping get designers to help causes that need it, and direct their energies away from the simpler exercise of doing redesigns. Doing the harder thing is often the better thing. Particularly if the thinking is that it will get them work/jobs/clients.
Truth is all unsolicited redesigns are worth close to nothing.
How can you design it without knowing the goals of it?
Imo this works in large part because clients and (many) potential employers are not critical in regards to your point about the product's goals. So, although "worth close to nothing", it's still effective in the goal of impressing the masses. That's how I see it anyway.
On another note I have seen pretty good totally-new-feature-addition type redesigns. I agree with your comment more regarding purely visual (and minor functional) style redesigns.
I do think however you can make an interesting case redesigning a product you use very, very frequently, addressing a problem you personally have. As long as the work is prefaced with that, then I think these types of redesign are a harmless and still a good (and fun) exercise to improve ones' craft.
I agree that would be great if designers put energy into helping non-profit organizations. But I think we miss the point:
Unsolicited redesigns aren't trying to solve any problems, they're mostly about training UI skills. And as said before in the thread, it's vastly easier to work with no real world constraints when trying to practice/show your UI skills.
Those people doing this type of work, normally have zero contact with the company, clients or users. Even when they present some type of research behind the process, it is frequently a very shallow research or with the wrong audience.
I don't think this type of work is valuable to most companies. Maybe one with a very simple product that wouldn't require any contact between the designer, clients and users.
Without properly knowing the business goal, redesigning the UI won't do much but show that you know how to do UI.
There's an episode on Netflix's Abstract: The art of design, on redesigning Instagram. That's the best example of redesigning a product, while taking into account both the business goals and your users. Doing 300 iterations of the logo to show how you got to your solution.
In the absence of a real portfolio, yes, these make sense. But they make sense if you document them properly.
I love Abstract, I must not have seen that one yet.
Whilst the title mentions Spotify specifically, this is more about the practice of unsolicited redesigns in general.
I'm not the author, so can't vouch for the organisations listed, but I thought this was an interesting list of worthy causes that could do with some help.
If you're a junior or are taking the self-taught path in one of the various disciplines of design, organisations like those listed — and in your local area — are a much better use of your time and energy. Both in terms of real world impact on the work you do, but also in terms of getting real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems.
Every designer who has the time should take on one of these non profits. Not just juniors.
But I see what you’re getting at. It’s usually the juniors who use unsolicited redesigns to learn and fill their portfolios.
Oh, for sure. My comment was mostly prompted from seeing juniors spending ages doing redesigns rather than cutting their teeth on something like this, but you're absolutely right.
I think we might need to differ here a bit between learning and helping. As a junior you should get as good as possible through learning. You're never learning as much as if you copy the big ones and figure out, why they did stuff they did the way they did it. Because their solutions are already there.
Therefore I like "redesigns" or interpretations of big solutions like spotify / app store / etc. Even though it smells a bit of arrogance, to think one would be good enough to replace a whole design-team of big corporations.
But it helps you getting better. I like it more as a way to learn, than "helping" non-profits. Learning while trying to help can be problematic - but I might be too puristic here.
"I think we might need to differ here a bit between learning and helping. As a junior you should get as good as possible through learning."
Sorry, perhaps I'm missing the point you're trying to make, but I don't see how working on real world projects isn't learning?
"You're never learning as much as if you copy the big ones and figure out, why they did stuff they did the way they did it. Because their solutions are already there."
My main issue with this thinking is that you don't know what the problem their solution solves in the first place. Is it user retention? Performance? Branding? Is the solution they're using just the one their budget allowed for? Without being on the inside, you have no way of knowing this.
For the record, I don't think spending time reverse engineering existing solutions is inherently bad. It's a good exercise to learn the tools of the trade, but really thats all it accomplishes. Hell, it's how I learnt all those years ago, trying to copy Carson, Vignelli etc... But again, it was mostly a way to learn the tools, as without being aware of the problem they were facing or trying to solve, how can you know they did? It would be a different story if these redesigns were taken from simply being mockups, and built out into full functioning app/sites/products that fill a particular need, but they're not.
Again, I don't think, and never said that redesigns don't teach you anything. I just don't think they teach anywhere near as much as working on a problem first hand. And besides, Spotify and friends don't need the help.
"But it helps you getting better. I like it more as a way to learn, than "helping" non-profits. Learning while trying to help can be problematic - but I might be too puristic here.""
I see what you're saying about inexperienced "help" being problematic. I agree somewhat. I do agree that sometimes an inexperienced person "helping" could cause more harm than good.
I do design and web work with a few not-for profits who constantly seem to have offers to help. Always from well meaning people, but more often than not, they come with a particular set of ideas and things they can offer, mostly to benefit themselves. But ultimately they get in the way, or don't offer any material benefit to the organisation. However those that take the time to reach out and spend the time actually finding out what problems the organisation is facing, and how they can then use their skills (developing or otherwise) to assist, is in my eyes a much more beneficial exercise for someone trying to get better in the long run.
Design can't happen in a vacuum. It needs to solve a problem. Designers need to work with people, navigate the real problems they face, have the awkward discussions that will inevitably come up and spend the time doing the work that solves those problems.
Edit: Sorry. This reply ended up being more long winded than I originally intended.
My point is: if you redesign stuff, you need to find out what the problem is they've solved. E.g. search the whole music catalog with a touch device. You also have a solution with wich you can compare your work. If you work for something, you do not have a solution to compare yourself with, it's more difficult to learn.
I'm not talking "rebuilding or copying" without questioning - that has nothing to do with design - that's indeed just learning the typewriter by typing a books pages. I'm talking redesign. Which means imo: solving the same problem in another way. That's how I understood your reference on rebuilding Apples App Store, or Spotify, Uber, Whatever. There are constraints why big corporations build their solutions the way they do. Even if we as designers think, that could've been solved better.
If you work on a new problem, you might miss a lot of points, which you might learn from redesigning for example Spotify. But I say "you might". For sure you can learn a lot of stuff while working - also for non-profits. I found it for my students more helpful to go the "Jared Spool" kind of way. Loved his Boarding Pass example. IMO one of the best possible way to show design-constraints that are not obvious.
If you're a junior or are taking the self-taught path in one of the various disciplines of design, organizations like those listed — and in your local area — are a much better use of your time and energy. Both in terms of real world impact on the work you do, but also in terms of getting real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems.
Well said Reece. I wholeheartedly agree. One thing to note is that it's also more difficult for juniors to genuinely appreciate the value of this advice — which is thrown around a lot, for good reason — without having experienced value from both sides of this spectrum (e.g. surface level design to solving real problems)
The real question to pose, perhaps: How might we get juniors to trust in this way of thinking, without having experienced its benefits. It's been my experience anyway, that I only truly began to see the value in having "real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems" much later in my career. Well past my junior years.
Then again ... blindly following advice isn't great. Especially when it goes against innocuous redesigns that will inevitably be phased out as the designer in question becomes more experienced.
I haven’t seen that many Spotify redesigns but I generally enjoy the fun takes on products. A lot of good ideas come out of playful exploration.
I generally wouldn’t advise someone design an actual thing without getting payment though.
Yeah, good point. Spec is a major problem, and in a lot of ways that what these redesign projects are.
Does your concern about only working for payment extend to doing work on a more voluntary basis or mostly concerning redesign exercises?
Doing an unfettered conceptual design of Spotify seems like a fun hobby project. Once you start involving the need to manage clients it becomes a whole other ball of wax altogether.
Designers, especially freelancers, need to spend time managing relationships if a project is real. If a junior just putting together their portfolio is doing real managing to make the project real they should be getting paid IMO. If they don’t see the project to completion/go live it’s not that much different from the Spotify project anyway — all conceptual. This includes pro-bono work.
Fair points all round.
I wouldn't dare advise someone do this work for a for-profit business. They can and must pay for the work.
Generally my view is doing pro-bono for smaller not-for-profits is a good thing. Particularly if they are a local one, helping your immediate community. Things like helping a local charity on improving their donation forms or call to actions on their site. Those are the kind of tasks that a junior can see through to completion that would have large impacts on the orgs they are helping, whilst giving them first hand experience of working with people on projects. These are the kind of organisations and tasks my comments for juniors was more focused on.
With bigger organisations, that can and should change. One thing a lot of people don't realise is that many larger not-for-profits often have budgets for this exact purpose. In saying that, the requirements change rather dramatically as well. I wouldn't suggest Juniors take this kind of work on. It can get pretty specialised.
I would love if schools would do something like this instead of fictional student projects.
I've often thought this also. Or alternatively, teachers reach out to an open source project or app to find out whether there is a need for help there, and then have their students work through that problem.
My tiny college does this, in small part. We had to go find a local client to do work for. Whether the work was paid or free was up to the student. Got my first 2 clients this way :) Was awesome.
This should be pinned or made an auto-reply for every "Redesign" Post.
why not both?
So many designers remix/redesign music apps because at their core they are very simple and complicated at the same time. Most of the time they only have a hand full of elements on screen at once, they all use mostly the same meta data and most people get that it's a music player right off the bat.
The article is more about redesigns in general. Spotify is just used as an example.