How can I develop my "design eye"?

over 4 years ago from , We designer

So I recently got a job as the sole Web Designer at a marketing company and I love it. I had my 3-month review the other day and one of the things they asked me to work on is developing my "design eye". The problem is that I lean more toward the developer side. I have no problem creating a site from a design but have trouble coming up with really good designs myself. I agree that my designs seem to be lacking that special something and I suspect it comes from my lack of training. I never went to school or took a class on design or graphic art so I don't have a strong foundation of design principles. But now I need to be able to design better looking sites, logos, and graphic works. So I'm looking for recommendations on books, articles, and anything else short of a formal education to build a better understanding of design and what makes it good.


  • Account deleted over 4 years ago

    Short answer: Design for 10000 hours

    This is an excellent place to start:


    2 points
    • Matt C, over 4 years ago

      I concur and want to piggyback a bit..

      When I was first starting out the thing that helped me learn the quickest was just copying other people's work (not for sale of course, but for practice). There are so many small decisions that go into even simple looking designs that you'll have a hard time understanding until you're in Sketch trying to create the effects yourself.

      Where you might normally just slap a shadow on a box and call it a day you might realize copying shopify or gmail or whatever that they're in fact using several shadows (just an example, I'm not claiming that good designs have multiple shadows automatically). Very small decisions like that end up working together to create a polish on the final artwork that you might be struggling to achieve.

      tldr; practice the craft by copying other people's stuff

      4 points
      • Nate vNate v, over 4 years ago

        One could argue that the simpler the design, the more decisions have to be considered.

        1 point
      • Alex HoffmanAlex Hoffman, over 4 years ago

        I agree with this, starting out I was just doing wordpress marketing sites...I would spend hours on awwwards.com and other similar sites looking for patterns I could reuse.

        I think we ought to clarify what stealing means. Steal small patterns and find a way to reuse them.

        For instance, some trends I've been noticing lately..everyone wants illustrations of faceless people these days. Go find some shit stock photography and try some illustration examples and try to mimic that same style.

        A lot brands seems to be steering away from really big and bright color palettes and use just black and white.

        Serif fonts seem to be trending again, (check out mailchimp).

        A common pattern for marketing sites is using a alternating two column grid, image left, text right, then alternate on the next row....etc

        These are patterns and trends you can steal from. Don't copy an entire website tho, that's actually stealing.

        1 point
      • Taurean BryantTaurean Bryant, over 4 years ago

        piggybacking further (the irony is not lost), building out intricate mood boards is also a good skill to cultivate and is related to this. Being able to understand the consistencies and relationship between very different imagery can help you develop the vocabulary around why those those images work together. Learning how to see means really analyzing and breaking down other great work.

        0 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 4 years ago


    For visual design, a really useful exercise that I did a lot when I was younger was taking a screenshot of a site that you feel is a good example of design. And then redrawing it in sketch (or whatever you use) focusing on recreating the typography and visual style exactly.

    For me it was a great way to get into the detail of what makes good visual design.

    1 point
  • Alexey LapenkoAlexey Lapenko, over 4 years ago

    Hi Taj! I would recommend you to read Typography and layout Interactive handbook.

    I've been designing a lot of stuff over 5 years when I found this treasure. The best introduction to typography and graphic design that I've ever read. It helped me understand what I do in a really novel way. The handbook structures your knowledge as a list of simple principles and templates. With those, you will be much more defined about your design decisions and be assertive on the review. It gave me a ton of confidence and my layouts got more robust. Also, it's packed with cool references and illustrations, It's a pleasure to walk through it even if you're a veteran. Worth every penny, check it out: Gorbunov's Typography & Layout

    0 points
  • nabeel khalidnabeel khalid, over 4 years ago

    Question what you like and why. Try to understand the design aesthetic within the given situation. The more you understand what you like and why you can learn how to do the same to prospected clients, interviewers etc.

    If you don't know where to start at that. Try with some personal work you like. Drill down on what makes it enjoyable to you. Also design history. Learn up on design history, movements and the cultural impact of them.

    Hope this helps

    0 points
  • Thuy Gia NguyenThuy Gia Nguyen, over 4 years ago

    Really interesting. The fact that you are asking yourself this is a great step in the right direction. Here is what I have used to accelerate and train your design eye,

    Join Dribbble and try to recreate some things you find interesting or inspiring. Start easy and try to "walk" in the other designers shoes. Use the REBOUND feature and upload whatever you have copied to Dribbble. It is essential to share your work, get feedback and then move on.

    Look for design in your everyday life. While brushing your teeth. How many logos do you see in front of you. I stole that one from the book "LOGO DESIGN LOVE"

    Get some knowledge. Read some design books. At the moment I'm reading Design Products People Love, by Scott Hurff. This one gives you some insight into the other details of great design. Human behaviour, ergonomics, sense. It learns you that good design is not always how it looks, but how it works.

    0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 4 years ago

    While that’s not how most people learn it, I think you can get methodical with it. There are certain principles that if followed will make a design look aestheticslly pleasing, concepts like hierarchy, reading patterns, gestalt principles, colour theory, typography (for these last two I suggest focusing more on these psychology, i.e. what emotional reaction each colour or type of font elicits, rather than the actual theory about why the way we perceive colours is influenced by the colours around them).

    Then the ‘design eye’ will simply be a matter of learning to recognise whether a layout has solid hierarchy or not, whether the colour scheme chosen communicates the appropriate message or not.

    I hope this helps. Edit: I will send some articles when I get home from work.

    0 points
  • Jennifer Nguyen, over 4 years ago

    I graduated from UCSD in Cognitive Science w/Human Computer Interactions (a fancier way of saying User Experience Design). And even in that program, they didn't teach us much on the visual side of things, we were focused on research and interaction design. So I didn't know how to use Photoshop and any general guidelines for graphics and colors.

    What really helped me develop my design eye was taking jobs that forced me to focus on visual design. To work at places where my colleagues were really good at visual design, and they taught me a lot.

    Sure you can self teach yourself or do side projects, but I learn best with face to face training/feedback. My greatest mentor was a Senior Designer at an agency, he would always critique my work and give me tips. I highly recommend working alongside a strong designer.

    0 points
  • Ryan Hicks, over 4 years ago

    I have no problem creating a site from a design but have trouble coming up with really good designs myself.

    Agh yes. Take that statement and turn it opposite. That is exactly how I feel about developing. It's crazy how our minds work. Some people are just better at specific things. You can certainly teach yourself these things though, but it will come with time, patience, and practice. While I don't have any specific advice I would agree with others have already said to you.

    0 points