6 Things Interactive Designers Can Learn From The Minimalists
Date: September 17, 2016
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“Every human has the innate desire to create: we all want to add value to the world.” — Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

I’ve been reading a ton from The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. If you’re not familiar with minimalism, it’s not just about material possessions, or a lack there of. There’s a mindset involved too. One that I find it has spilled over into my design life. Here are six lessons from The Minimalists that designers can learn from.

1. Make Change A Must.

What worked last year is more than likely not going to work this year. Hell, in the world of interactive design, what worked 6 months ago is probably close to out of date.  It’s the nature of the field we work in and we have to be willing to accept and make change. There have been times where I’ve thought “I should really update this template.” Unfortunately, “should” doesn’t get me anywhere.

To keep up with the ever changing digital landscape, every 3 months (about) I build a project from scratch. I start clean and refine my HTML, CSS and JS. Not only does everything get a little more organized, but I am able to add in up-to-date snippets and rid my files of anything old that may be lingering.

“A decision is not a real decision until it is a must, until you feel it on your nerve-endings, until you are compelled to take action. Once your shoulds have turned into musts, then you are ready for change.”

2. Relationships matter.

It recently became clear to me how important it is to have relationships within the design/development community. Having worked mostly for smaller companies, I hadn’t truly experienced the community vibe until this year.

Back in August, I attended #LitmusLive (Boston style) and was welcomed with open arms into the email community. (Shout out to any #emailgeeks reading this!) Since then, I’ve kept in touch with many people in the industry and continue to meet more. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to discuss challenges and celebrate progress together; to have reliable people I can ask questions to and to share my own knowledge. I make it a point to be involved in this community and try to contribute as often as possible.

“Every relationship—friendship, romantic, or otherwise—is a series of gives and takes.”

3. Procrastination is useless

Continuing to put something off does not solve any problems. In fact, you’re likely to put it off for so long that now it’s late or on a “rushed” timeline. Hello, unnecessary stress.

I like to do my most daunting tasks in the morning when my mind is fresh and ready for a challenge. Recently, I needed to learn a new JS plugin and for one reason or another, I kept finding ways to put it off. Once I finally got in to it, I was excited to be learning and could not stop building! Procrastination is useless.

“I realized that no matter how long I put something off, it’s still there the next day. Imagine that.”

4. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

This is one of my favorites. Keep learning. Keep challenging yourself. Keep growing. We work in an industry that is constantly developing and reshaping. Design trends, ESP developments, code evolution. We have our plates full and have to keep up or we’ll inevitably fall behind.

Here’s my secret: I try to incorporate one new thing in every project I take on. Sometimes it’s small things like CSS adjustments; changing the color of a pages text selection. Sometimes it’s larger JS endeavors. Either way, I aim to learn at least one new thing by the time I finish every project.

“If you’re not growing in life, you are simply living out your days.”

5. Slow Down.

This is a big one. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of projects, responsibilities and worst of all, deadlines. One of the best things we can do for ourselves (and our designs) is walk away for a bit. I’ve become a big fan of The Living Experiment podcast. During one of the episodes, Pause, Dallas and Pilar talk about ultradian rhythms.

“The basics: After 90-120 minutes of sustained energy output and mental focus, the body and brain need a 15-20 minute break. Your systems use that down time for recovery, repair, replenishment and rebalancing. After which time, they return to a high level of productivity and efficiency for another 90 to 120 minutes.”

As overwhelming as the day might get, remember to get up, walk away from your desk and allow your mind some time to regroup. It pays off, I promise!

“This is something I continue to work on improving: we all need to slow down, breathe, and pace ourselves when we get overwhelmed.”

6. Consider all advice.

Talk to your team; other designers, your editors, your marketing team. If people are willing to contribute advice, listen. Editors might have a better understanding of the audience and can tell you which part of the copy to really emphasize. Your marketing team may have a different perspective on something you feel like you’ve done a hundred times.

Don’t write people off because they aren’t designers (or developers). Embrace difference perspectives and listen to the advice people offer.

“…When I realized this, I told myself that even if I didn’t agree with what someone was telling me, I would at least consider their advice.”

I chose the 6 lessons that resonated most with my design & development life but there are 54 more waiting in the articles below:

30 Life Lessons From 30 Years
30 More Life Lessons From 30 Years



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