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Technology.

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Welcome to the fifth article of this series that focuses on designers in the team of one. After discussing the thinking in great detail, combining Ambition, Belief and Design Philosophy, Communication is increasingly tied to technology and automation.

This article aims to reflect on the very basic technology known to any designer. Yet, quite often, as technology progresses, we tend to choose new products, services, plugins and extensions to make our work better without realising that the main factors like time, quality and quantity are directly dependent on a learning curve that lies between the now and fully embedded technology into our design lives. 

What is Technology?

For this article, the technology is everything from hard drive, cloud drive, computer, phone, tablet, and screen to application, plugin extension or piece of software designed to help us produce our outputs faster and in higher quality to have more significant impact.

As for hardware, every designer has a backup. If you do not have the backup, you're not reusing your work and are not getting faster in your delivery.
Whether you have the local drive on your desk, the NAS drive in your bedroom, or the cloud drive in the middle of Iceland, it is up to you. The main point here is that you can access all your “work” immediately.   

Age of Platforms. 

This comes down to platforms. Back in the day, we had Flickr (does it still exist?) Adobe Drive, One Drive, Google Drive or DropBox – whatever you have chosen defines how you store files. How do these files are linked to your work, if at all?

Have you done the research, including brand and gap analysis? Then you might copy it onto your desktop, right? Perhaps you are a BropBox girl/boy and copied to our remote drive. Then, you created the PPTX/Keynote, where you copied your images again. A client likes it, and you copy the images to your product now in Sketch or Figma. Finally, you copy it onto a Jira ticket or in a development repository. That way, your image was probably more copied than seen by your colleagues to clients.
Sound familiar? 

Age of Context.

Welcome to the age of context. Let's have all things in one place. I do not mean dump yard, a place where you just upload all your stuff and play for 4TB of storage where, in fact you are using only 200 GB for which you can spend only £2,99 per month.

A place where the context matter.
Images in reusable libraries/ databases are clearly named and organised for further use that defines their purpose. All designers – mobile, tablet, desktop and even TV – can reuse one image. (which, BTW., reduces the Figma file by 40%)  

It is a place where we have all text in reusable/active format, and when it is updated, the changes are reflected everywhere. Place that we all contribute and build on our knowledge, stop replicating data to clutter our drives and minds, and stop Slack-ing, “Where on the earth is the latest version of our document X?”


This very setting will make a new designer 50% faster than any of his competitors in the design field. This scalability has its own limits. If you work alone or in a team of ten, it’s staggering, and the impact is quite visible to all parties – business, design and even engineering. Unfortunately, with a rising number of colleagues and bureaucracy, this model has its limits. You might be pleased to hear that it was successfully applied by a team of 40 designers and 650 engineers, delivering one of the biggest TV propositions in the UK and quite recently in India.  
More on this note in the following article, Operations.

Flexibility.

Why would we want to do all of this hustle? To impress our colleagues or bosses, or to express our capabilities? A number of creative technologists create overwhelming capabilities of design systems that are rarely used. App Store represents the home of 900M apps, and the Figma plugin marketplace has already grown beyond its limit. How can we stay on top of things without getting distracted?

After a thorough review and a specific questionnaire (we call an evaluation matrix), I often advise designers and design teams to find the tool they are comfortable with and master it. After all, our tools change every five years or sometimes even faster. There is no point in investing all your time in knowing all the tools out there. Twenty years ago, we had Photoshop, then FireWorks, then something else (oh, I see Adobe XD came along), then Sketch came along, and now we use Figma (Framer). Let’s see what comes next. Important for you as a designer is that you can translate your files to the code. Then and only then are truly agile. 

Do mention pencil-to-code 

Adaptability

That brings us to adaptability. Nowadays, designers say I must convert the Sketch to Figma; it is so painful. Have you ever converted a 1.6 TB PSD file with 4,800 smart layers and 2780 linked smart objects to a Figma – please stop! 


The point here is that all your work needs to be translatable. For me, it was Freehand > Illustrator > XD > Sketch > Figma, all supporting (AI) SVG format. I can open files from 1992 and still have the same layers of structure I had back when I learned digital illustrations. 

Choose your format wisely; your future depends on it.

Integration 

Let’s talk about the code a little. Today, tools allow export to HTML, Swift and so on. Should you be learning the design to code or code to design? If you are smart and wish to grow, the code is the most significant extension of your design skill. If there is an interest from your end, please comment below, and we’ll include the article that shows designers who code. 

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Tagged: agile · coaching · collaboration · cx · dastm · design · designatscale · designer2designer · framework · madebyhuman · management · mentoring · Method · organisations · process · scale · sme · startup · ux · ways_of_working
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