Are you worried about your job? How would you rate its stability, from “rock solid” to “I keep my things in a box”? What about happiness—how satisfied are you at work on a scale from “ready to quit” to “extremely satisfied”?

These are among the questions the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) posed to nearly 10,000 designers this year in its annual Design Census, which has tracked the evolution of the design industry through surveys of professionals each year since the inaugural census in 2016. The latest iteration of the census, which was released this week online, collected insights from 9,400 designers, who answered questions about everything from their salaries and benefits (10% make less than $25,000; 2% make more than $200,000) to their opinions about the future of the profession (hot: AI and machine learning. Not: parametric design). According to the results, design remains stubbornly homogeneous when it comes to diversity, though it does show some small signs of improvement; 71% of respondents reported themselves as white, compared to 73% in 2017.

[Image: courtesy AIGA]

The census also polls designers on job satisfaction and stability, and the third iteration of the report allowed its creators to compare how those responses have changed since 2016. Job satisfaction decreased quite a bit between 2017—when 82% felt satisfied—and 2019, when 65% said so. A twin metric that saw a sharp decline? Designers feeling stable in their jobs. Where 25% reported feeling “rock solid” in 2017, just 4% responded that way this year.

“The number of designers who feel worried about their job more than tripled from 2017, with the vast majority of designers saying they feel concerned about the stability of their current position,” says Liz Stinson, managing editor of AIGA’s Eye on Design, via email.

While the report hints at the threat of automation being a factor, Stinson points to another emerging influence on the profession: the acquisition of small design studios by megacompanies like Google and Facebook. After all, independent design studios like Universal and Map, which were both acquired by much larger companies in 2018, and Argodesign, which sold to a $22 billion tech company later in the same year, are being swallowed up by tech. Hannah Hoffman, a 30-year-old associate design director at Artefact, offered this quote to the census:

There are lots of great jobs out here, but they’re getting swallowed up by huge companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. That’s disheartening because you feel like it’s only a matter of time before more shops close and will be swallowed up by these giants.

Stinson cautions that measuring job satisfaction is tricky: “We tried to contextualize it as best we could with data around why people are generally satisfied or unsatisfied.” For instance, people who reported feeling satisfied saw their big challenges at work as not being paid enough, being too busy, and not having benefits. The unsatisfied designers picked reasons like “I don’t respect the people I work with” and “My role is not valid.”

[Image: courtesy AIGA]

Could it be that designers who have more control over their work and clients are more satisfied than those who don’t have a choice about who they work with and why? Perhaps. “It’s interesting to me that small business owners are some of the happiest designers, despite working the most (60 hours),” Stinson adds. “It’s pure speculation, but I imagine that some of that enjoyment comes from autonomy and ownership over what they’re doing, creative freedom, etc.”

It’s too soon to say exactly how these changing metrics will transform the face of the profession. For now, the census authors are inviting designers to download the raw data and run their own analyses and visualizations. You can check it out here.


Last week I sent out a survey which tries to answer a seemingly simple question: What do designers do?

With the constantly expanding number of design roles and the various ways companies define them, it can be hard to know precisely what designers across the spectrum do, where they spend their time, and what’s important to them.

The survey had a total of 62 responses, which is fairly tiny, but there were still some clear patterns across the roles and types of businesses. Let’s dig into the data.

The results

In the last month, what are the 3 activities you’ve spent the most time on?

  • 64% of respondents mentioned “creating designs”, which is hardly a surprise
  • 24% said attending meetings
  • 23% responded with “creating design specs” as one of their main activities

Word cloud to answers of question - what do designers do?

What are your top 3 goals at work?

  • 31% said something along the lines of “to create, simple usable designs that help our users reach their goals”
  • There were no clear patterns across other answers, which included things like improving representation in the company, doing more user research, and career progression

I want our users to be able to complete their tasks, using our product, in the quickest, easiest and most intuitive manner.

Help my team to better understand user needs

What are the challenges you face when trying to reach those goals?

  • 34% said a lack of time or resources was their biggest challenge
  • Convincing stakeholders and a lack of planning, process, and priorities were also popular responses, with ~23% of responses mentioning challenges along those lines

What type of designers responded?

Before asking the above questions, I tried to gather some information about which types of designers were answering. Here’s who took part:

Which type of designer are you?

Pie chart showing designer types who answered survey

As we can see, a large percent of respondents (38.7%) are UX/UI designers, with product designers coming in second place with 14.5%.

How long have you been a designer?

Pie chart showing answers of question - how long have you been a designer

Surprisingly (at least for me), most of the people who responded have been designers for more than 5 years.

What type of company do you work at?

Pie chart showing answers of question - which type of company do you work for?

37.1% of the designers who responded worked at a B2B company, in-house as opposed to an agency.

How many designers work at your company?

Pie chart showing answers of question - how many designers are at your company?

A huge majority of people who responded work at companies with very few designers (1-5).

There you have it. If you’re a designer who curious about what other designers do, you’re interested in hiring designers, or you’re just interested in the industry, this should have given you some insight into what designers across roles actually spend their time on and care about.

If you have any feedback, want to share more about what you do at work, or just want to chat, I’d love to hear from you. Just email me [email protected] or get in touch on Twitter.

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As a designer, I have a lot of opinions on design, both as a user and as a creator of design content. And if you’re a designer, I’m sure you do as well. It’s part of our profession. What we think about design and the world around us greatly influences the choices we make and the ways in which we go about solving our clients’ problems.

Designers who have strong, interesting opinions about design not only have more prominence in the design community; they have more opportunities for truly inspiring and valuable work. Let’s explore some reason why your opinions about design should be shared far and wide with designers the world over.

Read Also: 7 Splendid Techniques to Encourage Comments on Your Blog

Use Social Media To Crowdsource

When most designers hear the word “crowdsourcing,” they think of sleazy, backdoor sites that try to con inexperienced designers into doing free or vastly underpriced work. But I’m not talking about that kind of crowdsourcing.

I mean that designers can use social media platforms for a different kind of crowdsourcing, one that doesn’t ask for free work and that only adds to their career. The kind of crowdsourcing that gets you opinions, conversation, communication, and industry connections.


Your social media followers can often hook you up with the information you need to advance your career, market yourself properly, or meet that awesome client you’ve been dying to work for. The only thing they ask in return is an interesting stream of opinions and ideas from you which add value to their own lives and careers.

The Industry Needs Controversy

Controversial ideas get people talking, which in turn sparks creativity and helps us all grow as designers. Don’t be afraid to get vocal about things that are bothering you about the industry. Do you think designers are going about something all wrong? Tell them so, and then tell them what they can do differently.

When I write these sorts of posts about design, I try to point out a problem that I’ve noticed with a number of designers, as well as some simple fixes that will help them correct course. The feedback I’ve gotten has rarely been negative, even when I’m at my most strident and obnoxious.

Engage and challenge people, and you will be rewarded with notoriety (the good kind, of course).

Read Also: 10 LinkedIn Groups for Web Designers

Blogging Gives Your Design More Credibility, And Vice Versa

If you have something to say about the industry, you will generate interest in your work. Many people got to know designer Jessica Hische through her famous infographic “Should I Work For Free?” which went viral several years ago. I know I did.

The content was relevant and useful to me as a freelance designer (not to mention hilarious). This got me interested in her design work, and that’s when I discovered her talent for lettering.


The other side of the equation is actually being good at what you do. If you have great work to show off, people will take your opinions more seriously. If you say nice things, but don’t have the design chops to back it up, designers are going to dismiss you very quickly.

Clients Are Listening

That’s right. Clients who want to hire you for design work will most certainly be checking out your blog or social media stream to get a feel for how you think and who you are as an individual. Depending on what they find, they’ll decide whether you’ll a good fit for their project and vice versa.

You never know who will stumble across your work or your words, decide that you are the best thing they’ve ever seen, and make you an offer for an insane amount of money for a dream gig with all the creative freedom you’ve ever wanted. Don’t think it can happen? Trust me, it can and does every day.


This is absolutely not a call to censor yourself, by the way. Notice I said that clients will evaluate you based on whether they think you’re a good fit for their project, and also whether their project is a good fit for you as an individual. If you censor what you say because you don’t want to “offend” anyone, you’re only hurting your chances to land that really amazing client you’ve always known you’d be a perfect match for.

Maybe that client was looking for someone with a little more “bite” to their content, and they’ve completely passed you over because they thought you were a little too tame. How sad would that be?

Sharing Is Caring

Don’t forget to share links to other blogs and tell people what you think about them. It’s not just all about you – other designers have things to say as well. There’s a reason the design community is called that: we’re all in this together, and we all need to be helping each other be as successful in our field as possible.

It can only result in a stronger industry for us all, as clients and businesses take note and give us the respect and rates we deserve as professionals.


There once was a time when your clients desired certain features that either left you scratching your head as to how you’d pull it off or dreading all of the work it would take to manually put something like that together. However, with the rising popularity of application programming interfaces, or APIs, that’s no longer an issue…

With an API, you create a connection between your website and an application for the purposes of drawing on its data or features. This allows you to not only enhance the on-site experience, but to streamline a lot of the processes that would otherwise require much tedious hand-holding behind the scenes. Many of you are probably familiar with the multitude of APIs Google has created.

But it’s not just Google that’s trying to make it easier for web developers and designers to create impressive online experiences. According to APIHound, it has a repository of over 50,000 APIs while ProgrammableWeb lists over 22,000. Even if only the top 1% are usable, that’s still 200 to 500 high-quality APIs you could be leveraging to build websites.

That said, I’m not going to leave you to figure out which ones are worth your time. Below, you’ll find the 15 best APIs for web design and development:

1. Google Analytics

Tracking visitor activity on a website with Google Analytics is non-negotiable these days. But there’s more to get out of this platform than just watching web traffic go up and down. You can use the Google Analytics APIs to:

  • Monitor custom data, like e-commerce conversion rates and lifetime value calculations.
  • Create special tracking dashboards for the backend of your website.
  • Go deeper with sales funnel tracking and analysis.

2. Google Geo-location (Maps)

Google Maps is the more commonly recognized geo-location API from Google. However, there are other ways to use this API to your advantage:

  • Make embedded maps look however you like (e.g. street view enabled, 360-degree pivot, etc.)
  • Show route data along with real-time traffic insights.
  • Equip search fields and forms with pre-populated geo-location data that matches real world locations.

3. Google Fonts

The Google Fonts API gives developers a way to call on a Google Font from the directory. This way, you don’t need to host any cumbersome font files on your server. Google handles the load.

4. Google Translate

Building an international website and need a quick and convenient way to translate it into numerous languages? You can use Google’s Cloud Translation and API service to help. All you need is an HTML and Google Translate will take care of the rest.

5. Google Calendar

For a business that hosts lots of events — online or in-person — a calendar would come in handy for the website. With the Google Calendar API, you can instantly make that connection and start displaying public or private events.

6. G Suite Apps

Google’s suite of apps have their own corresponding APIs, too. So, let’s say you have a contact form that provides your client with important information prior to a sales call. You could configure the Google Sheets API to capture the data submitted by users, which would help the sales rep or business owner in preparing for the call ahead of time.

7. YouTube

You know it’s not a very good idea to upload video files to your server. Thanks to the YouTube API, you can easily embed video players into your website and customize the playback settings. You can also use the API to pull in data from YouTube to your website’s dashboard.

8. Vimeo

Vimeo is another popular video playback solution that has its own API. If your clients would prefer to manage their video content with Vimeo, know that you have the ability to leverage the API to embed videos on the site, pull in usage data, and customize playback.

9. Facebook Messenger

Want to build a Facebook Messenger chatbot for your website? With the Messenger API, you can do that. What’s more, you can program how the bot interacts with visitors, so it doesn’t just end up being a holding queue for visitors waiting to connect with a real person through the site or over on Facebook.

10. Facebook Apps and Plugins

Facebook provides developers with APIs so they can get more out of their marketing efforts on the social media platform itself. However, it also provides a set of APIs and SDKs that can be used on websites. With them, you can:

  • Add a Facebook login.
  • Embed social media feeds and posts.
  • Track website conversions in relation to Facebook.

11. Twitter

Truth be told, all of the leading social media platforms have their own APIs. But if we’re looking at the more valuable ones to include on your website, Facebook and Twitter are probably them. That said, Twitter’s offering for web developers is a bit lighter than Facebook’s. With it, you’ll gain the ability to embed Twitter feeds, posts, as well as share buttons.

12. Twilio

If you’re not familiar with it, the Twilio API is an incredibly powerful tool for businesses that want to integrate voice, SMS, chat, or AI bots into their websites.

For instance, think about a website that allows visitors to schedule appointments. By asking for a phone number in the request, you can program your API to automatically send appointment reminders via text.

You could also use this for something like a free SaaS trial. You include a few additional fields like Business Name, Company Size, and Phone Number in the signup form. Then, a few hours after the visitor signs up, a sales rep follows up by phone to see how they’re enjoying it.

13. Dropbox

Do you need a secure place to store files from your website? You could use the Dropbox API to make that happen with ease. You can also use the API to handle more complex tasks like enabling website visitors to upload documents to your Dropbox account (like resume files). You could also use it to get prospective employees, tenants, or clients to e-sign documents.

14. MailChimp

There are different ways you may want users to engage with your website, but most of them are likely to end in a form — lead gen, contact, or e-commerce.

If you’re using MailChimp to power your email marketing efforts, then connecting its API to your form and website would be useful. You can manage your email lists and automate how your site and email work together through it.

15. Payment Processors (Stripe and PayPal)

There’s no reason to manually process payment information anymore when payment processors have created such a reliable means of connecting their platforms to our websites. The APIs for payment processors like Stripe and PayPal are what enable developers to do more than just collect payments, too. You can enable tracking, handle refunds and disputes, and more.


The above list covers the essentials you’re going to need when building a website and adding all those critical features your clients desire. But there are so many more APIs you can leverage.

If you’re new to this and want an easy way to work with lesser known APIs, consider leveraging IFTTT or Zapier. These tools help you create “recipes” that connect your website to existing APIs. Think of them as a friendly go-between.

Featured image via Unsplash.


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UX Designers have gotten so used to not being responsible for the final look of the product, that they have dangerously distanced themselves from the design craft.

This is not an article about whether UX and UI are separate disciplines or not. This is a story on whether UX designers should pay more attention to the visual quality of their outputs.

In the early years of the commercial web, we were all Web Designers. Digital interactions, at that stage, were not incredibly sophisticated: most websites were structured as a set of individual pages connected to each other via buttons and links.

In more complex websites and information-heavy systems, the web designer would pair with an Information Architect to make sure content was organized in a way that made sense for that particular audience.

Interfaces then evolved and interactions became more sophisticated — including sites in Flash, RIA (Rich Internet Applications), and increasingly interactive widgets, soon to be followed by the advent of smartphones and touch interfaces. It was the era of the Interaction Designer.

We then moved into experiences that existed way beyond a single screen or flow. The vision of users transitioning across multiple touchpoints in a seamless and connected experience has brought attention to a new figure in the digital product design ecosystem: the UX Designer.

A tale of form and function

To be able to deal with the emerging complexity of digital design, over the years our industry has gradually separated form and function, broadening the gap between the role of the UI Designer and the UX Designer. While the former group has become more and more specialized in shaping the way things look, UX Designers has distanced themselves from aesthetic decisions to be able to focus on how things work — and on how technology can deliver on real, research-proven user needs and pain points.

The challenge is: as UX Designers, we have gotten so used to not being responsible for the final look of the product that we have dangerously distanced ourselves from the design craft. Because the output of our work (wireframes, user journeys, personas, research synthesis) is rarely going to be seen by end users, we have settled for less.

Less quality. Less polish. Less taste.

“Lean UX” has forced our documentation to be produced at a faster pace.

“Design thinking” has equipped us with colorful sticky notes, and atrophied our ability to produce high-fidelity designs.

“Low fidelity” has become an excuse for horrendous — almost offensive — outputs.

Year after year, UX Designers lost touch of their sense of polish and taste, missing an incredible opportunity to evolve their craft as designers. “Low fidelity” became an excuse for horrendous — almost offensive — design outputs.

Fidelity: how low is too low?

If you have been in this industry for some time, you have probably seen wireframes and mockups that carry such low fidelity that they become borderline unhelpful. The same with user journeys, persona templates, blueprints (even presentation slides in a UX conference, to be completely honest) — deliverables that are carelessly thrown together with too little attention to detail.

Choosing the right level of fidelity to design deliverables has been an endless discussion in the design community, and that’s not the purpose of this article. I wanted to propose an angle not a lot of people might be writing and thinking about.

Design, in my view, is all about attention to detail. No matter how strategic of a designer you are. When presented with an u̶g̶l̶y̶ extreme low fidelity UX deliverable, aside from questioning how thoughtful the person who created it is, I try to understand the underlying reason for that to be happening.

  • The lack of fidelity on a wireframe may be an indicator of lack of understanding of what the real content needs to be.
  • The lack of basic design rules (like hierarchy, alignment, negative space) demonstrates lack of understanding of foundational graphic design history and legacy. Is there a chance this can hurt the product later on?
  • The lack of polish shows lack of care. That person have not invested enough time in creating a more pleasant experience for the people consuming that content. Is there a chance the same will happen later on the project?
  • The lack of good taste puts into question the references that professional has. What are the sources of design inspiration they have been consuming?

A discipline of designers who do not design

Some people migrate to UX design from other disciplines like development, product management, copywriting, graphic design. To be able to hold the responsibilities required of that new role, they study user-centered design methods, join UX bootcamps, and in some cases even learn to create wireframes and low-to-medium fidelity prototypes. But because the default assumption in our industry is that UX designers do not need to present a high level of polish on a daily basis in the materials they produce, people stop investing time in learning to improve their design craft.

Professionals with a graphic design background find it easier to transition to UX than the other way around. Once you have a good grasp of the visual aspect of design, learning to step back and think more strategically about the work tends to feel more natural — and aligns quite well with the process of becoming a more senior designer anyways. But UX designers rarely pursue the other route.

Why would you settle for less?

When migrating to UX, why do people stop pursuing self-betterment in terms of design craft and polish? Why do UX designers not invest more time and energy in improving their visual skills? How can that hurt them?

When challenged with questions like these, UXers are quick to defend the reasons why higher-fidelity deliverables is not a priority for them.

“I would rather focus my time on learning user-centered design methods such as research and strategy.”

Sure. How much time have you spent last week studying new research and strategy methods? Chances are you haven’t. We are pretty good at making excuses for ourselves. Also, once you learn how to operate the more strategic design tools (e.g. moderating a focus group, or mapping the user’s journey), improving on it is more of a matter of practice than dedicating additional time to study how that’s done.

Once you learn to be strategic, you rarely un-learn it.

“But I‘m too busy and I can’t spend too much time refining a deliverable that will be used for internal purposes only.”

So how about becoming faster at producing polished designs? You are only spending 8 long hours polishing the visuals of that user journey because you lack practice. When you get over the hump and become more trained at observing and fixing tiny design inconsistencies, you will get faster and more efficient at creating deliverables that are better looking and easier on the eye.

“But I want to keep it low fidelity to gather the right type of feedback from users.”

The higher the fidelity, the more specific is the feedback you’ll get. Fact. The whole reason why we seek user feedback is so we can use the insights gained to further refine and improve our designs — so the product shouldn’t be fully finished for user testing sessions. Here’s a quite well articulated counter-argument by Arin Bhowmick: “However, you might also have heard people tell you that if you’re wanting to test how someone will respond in a specific scenario, the closer the ‘test’ or ‘model’ corresponds to the reality that it is simulating, the more confident you can be that their behavior in the test scenario will be truly representative of how they would react in the real scenario.” The answer, according to Bhowmick and the way they work at IBM, is pretty powerful: “Seek feedback on your lo-fi explorations, your hi-fi prototypes, and everything in between.”

“But no user is going to see this journey map.”

Your coworkers will. Your stakeholders will. There is even a chance this journey map will be circulated across the entire organization, becoming the bible to how your company understands the user’s journey for years to come. It’s your name and your legacy behind that document — isn’t that enough of a good reason to invest more time into making it look better?

So why would you settle for less?

This article is part of Journey: lessons from the amazing journey of being a designer. Read next:


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We started Monolist after years of spending too much time managing our work, and not enough time doing our work. We felt the pain of working across too many tools, and letting too much slip through the cracks. So we wanted to do something about it.

But we had absolutely no design experience. After a year of slogging through thousands of iterations, we wanted to share some of the lessons we’ve learned on how to design without any formal training.

When I was in school, sometimes I would study for finals by looking at the answers to practice exam problems, and reverse-engineer an approach for getting to those answers. I usually failed exams when I studied like that. Designing a product isn’t so different.

In design, just like exam prep, finding answers is pretty easy (cough…Dribbble…cough), but you probably won’t learn anything if you rely on them. The hard part is understanding the problem you’re trying to solve, and getting to the answer yourself.

Most of design has nothing to do with what is on the screen.

When developing a product, you form a hypothesis about a problem that a specific person has, and you build something as quickly as you can that you think solves it. If the problem is big enough for that person, and the product you’re building solves it, they’ll probably buy it.

Simply put, design is the process of identifying and solving problems. And just like with that tricky derivative on your college calculus exam, there are rules, tools, and assumptions you can rely on to get to the answer without looking at the key.

Before you have a solution, you must have a problem, and someone who suffers that problem. Is the problem you have a hypothesis on one that your customer experiences? How does that problem make them feel? Is it important to them? Do they currently have any way to solve it? What is that solution, and where does it fall short?

From these conversations, you should come out with crystal clear understanding of what problem you’re solving, the particular customer profile you are solving for (hopefully you even know his/her name), and a hypothesis about the solution.

First principles are basic truths or assumptions that we can use to develop reasonable arguments. First principles thinking (also known as reasoning from first principles) is a way to use these assumptions in order to break down monolithic or complex problems into many smaller, more solvable problems. Solve all the small ones, and the big one goes away.

When you have written down your customer’s problem:

  1. Decompose it into as many elements as possible.
  2. Enumerate your assumptions and principles about the solutions to all of the constituent problems.
  3. Identify which of the constituent problems are most solvable based on what you know is true.
  4. Come up with something from scratch that solves the problem, using the principles and beliefs as a north star for governing the solution. If your existing design patterns aren’t aligned with your principles and don’t solve the problem, introduce a new pattern. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
  5. If you finish the iteration, but it is not an accurate reflection of your principles, try again.

Let’s explore an example that’s close to home for us: how to make it easier to discover tasks in the inbox.

First, let’s explore the problem: Important tasks get buried in the inboxes of engineers

Now let’s decompose this problem, and see what we can solve.

Problem Breakdown

(Element 1) Engineers use too many tools which send too many emails

Engineers receive important emails from the tools they use, but those notifications tend to flood their inboxes. The most important thing is the service that’s sending the notification, and the recency of that notification (if it’s important, you might need to respond quickly). As such, we decided to condense all notifications from individual services into stacks, which move around in the inbox like other emails, but represent bundles of notifications instead of just one email. In our solution, it’s paramount that you can quickly scan to see what service is sending the notification, and when the most recent update was relative to your other services.

Grouped Senders

(Element 2) Engineers receive many emails from senders they never engage with, and (Element 3) Engineers receive emails from senders they don’t want in the first place

People go to their inboxes to find out what has changed that might affect how they want to spend their time at work. However, engineers are bombarded with emails from recruiters, sales people, or tools they don’t want in their inboxes, so this process is not always productive. We wanted to make it easy to remove these unhelpful messages from the inbox, while maintaining the ability for the user to see everything that changed since they last checked the inbox. As such, we landed on treating new senders as “friend requests” within the inbox. You can see all the content of the message you’ve been sent, but the primary choice the user faces is not how to deal with the message itself, but how to deal with the sender of the message. If the new user is unwanted, you ignore them once and never receive messages again.


(Element 4) Inboxes treat tasks the same as other emails in the inbox

Inboxes are naive. They simply collect notifications and messages that other tools and people send you. However, not all messages are the same to the end-user. If you’re trying to discover new work, you want to immediately understand what new tasks you have, the current status of that task, and any new information related to that task. So we decided to pull all of that information together for each task that you have, whether it’s a ticket from a project management tool, or a pull request that needs to be merged.


Breaking down our problem to its most basic elements helped us design solutions with confidence that solve the broader issue of discovering tasks in your inbox.

When designing in a collaborative environment, disagreement can be productive and healthy. If not handled correctly, disagreement can lead to heated discussions and spur resentment.

At Monolist, we rely on a few operating procedures to promote healthy discourse that pushes our design forward, and keeps us happy to be in the same room.

  1. All specs (product and design) must have governing principles that are agreed-upon before work starts on the project.
  2. Before design reviews, we review the problem governing principles.
  3. When providing design feedback, tie it to the problem, the solution, or the underlying principles. These concepts are not only valuable in building robust solutions to problems, they are also a great vocabulary to provide feedback.
  4. Before you raise an issue, take the time to consider an alternative to propose.

To be successful as a startup, you face stark constraints. You have limited runway, and need to solve a big problem. That means you need to build quickly, without over-investing cycles in anything that won’t get you to product-market fit. As such, selecting tools that will increase your pace of development is crucial.

At Monolist, we’re obsessed with Figma, because it:

  1. Inherently promotes collaboration and transparency
  2. Allows us to sell before we build
  3. Makes design delightful


At Monolist, we’re all designers. Figma’s group editing makes it seamless for us to review and comment on each-other’s work, as well as maintain an open and transparent design library for anyone to view.


Prototyping with ease

Building software takes time. Making designs in Figma is faster. When we have a new idea, we use Figma prototypes to explore solutions and show them to customers in days instead of weeks.

If you understand the problem you’re solving (by talking to your customers), you’ve articulated and written down your governing product and design principles, and you’ve chosen the right tool, the pixels will most likely sort themselves out.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m proud of what we’ve learned in our first year of designing Monolist, and how much we’ve developed as designers.

If you’d like to provide feedback on what we’ve designed so far, try out Monolist.


Envato ElementsEverything I Know About Style Guides, Design Systems, and Component Libraries – Developer Lee Robinson shares insight on design systems and more.

Everything I Know About Style Guides, Design Systems, and Component LibrariesVariable Font Animation with CSS and Splitting JS – Combine these two technologies to add amazing special effects to your text.

Variable Font Animation with CSS and Splitting JS3D in Hand: Business Cards with Holographic Effects – Check out some stunning business card designs that take advantage of holographic foils.

3D in Hand: Business Cards with Holographic EffectsAirframe React – A free, open source dashboard template based on React and Bootstrap.

Airframe ReactThe power of visual in product design – Visual elements can impact user perception, recognition and memory.

The power of visual in product designShould we still be selling responsive web design? – A look at why responsive design may in fact be short-sighted.

Should we still be selling responsive web design?The Making of an Animated Favicon – Yes, favicons can be animated! Learn how to create a loading/progress animation with this tutorial.

The Making of an Animated FaviconThe Pros and Cons of Building Websites with Third-Party Products – Why buying into third-party tools and software often means giving up control.

The Pros and Cons of Building Websites with Third-Party ProductsChart.xkcd – A library for creating charts with a hand-drawn look.

Chart.xkcdCSS Units Explained – A guide to all of the different unit measurements available in CSS.

CSS Units ExplainedMinify Your SVGs – Save precious bandwidth by optimizing your SVG files.

Minify Your SVGs20 Free Branding & Corporate Identity Mockup Templates – Showcase your logos and corporate identity items using this collection of free mockups.

20 Free Branding & Corporate Identity Mockup TemplatesReact Slider with Parallax Hover Effects – Learn how to build a stunning slider that takes advantage of the latest JavaScript enhancements.

React Slider with Parallax Hover EffectsEfficiently load third-party JavaScript – Use these tips for improving both load time and the user experience.

Efficiently load third-party JavaScriptMC.JS – A free, open-source Minecraft clone that you can play in your browser!

MC.JSThe (Upcoming) WordPress Renaissance – The latest developments with the Gutenberg block editor and how they bode for the future.

The (Upcoming) WordPress Renaissance25 Free Apple Motion Templates for Videographers – Create amazing motion graphics for your projects using these templates.

25 Free Apple Motion Templates for Videographers


Aside from being a go-to source for procrastination, Netflix is also a treasure trove of inspiration for designers. With their library being updated almost daily—remember when Orange is the New Black was the hot show?—it’s hard to keep up with what’s really worth watching.

From neuroscience to documentaries to lost footage, all of these shows will spark your imagination and leave you amazed at what the human mind can accomplish.

If you decide to binge them all in one week, don’t blame us for falling behind on your projects.

1. Abstract: The Art of Design

Created by: Scott Dadlich

Seasons: 1

Episodes: 8

Runtime: 42-48 minutes

This Netflix original docu-series, created by former WIRED editor Scott Dadlich, is a global sampler of the men and women who animate everything from screens to shoes. Each episode stands as its own documentary film, highlighting design visionaries like Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. Abstract isn’t just about storytelling, though: it illustrates the intent behind the amazing objects around us—which many take for granted—and the decisions from which they originated.

Our favorite episodes:

“Paula Scher: Graphic Design” — Abstract documents the work of Paula Scher, an American graphic designer who served as the first female principal at Pentagram.

“Christoph Niemann: Illustrator” — Over the past two decades, Nieman has sketched everything from New Yorker covers to Google’s “Doodle of the Day.” This episode is a window into the mind of one of the world’s most successful illustrators.

2. The Creative Brain

Directors: Jennifer Beamish, Toby Trackman

Starring: David Eagleman

Runtime: 52 minutes

To some people, creative genius might appear to be a superpower reserved for an elite few. But David Eagleman makes it his mission to dispel that myth in his documentary The Creative Brain

Eagleman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University, taps into the minds of creators like prolific architect Bjarke Ingels and musical artist Grimes to unravel their thought processes and explore how each of us can unleash our own creative breakthroughs.

Eagleman’s premise is that being original isn’t about pulling ideas out of thin air: it’s about cobbling together existing ideas to create something remarkable. 

3. The Pixar Story

Director: Leslie Iwerks

Interviewees: Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Michael Eisner, and more

Runtime: 88 minutes

In the mid-1980s, a trio of Bay Area idealists combined their talents in art, science, and business to launch a company that would define entertainment for the foreseeable future. Those three people were Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, and Steve Jobs. Their company was Pixar.

The Pixar Story takes viewers behind the scenes to witness the creative struggle and determination that fueled the next-level animation technology which revolutionized Hollywood. The film stitches together never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with pivotal people including Tim Allen and Tom Hanks to chronicle Pixar’s journey from startup to paradigm shifter.

4. Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer

Director: Vlad Yudlin

Starring: Jeremy Scott, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, ASAP Rocky, and more

Runtime: 108 minutes

How do you go from farm boy to creative director of one of the world’s most prestigious fashion brands? Just ask Jeremy Scott.

Growing up in rural Missouri, Scott had dreams of becoming a fashion icon. But before realizing that dream, he would endure constant rejection, ridicule, and even homelessness before his crowning achievement: becoming Moschino’s creative director. This rags-to-riches documentary encapsulates the grit required to carve a name for oneself as a creative, with fascinating detours into the minutiae of the fashion industry.

5. The 100 Years Show

Director: Alison Klayman

Starring: Carmen Herrera

Runtime: 29 minutes

Carmen Herrera sketches every morning beside the window of her New York City apartment. A world-renowned painter, her minimalist works are on exhibit at major institutions such as MoMA and Tate Modern. London’s The Observer dubbed her the “discovery of the decade.”

The craziest part? She’s 104 years old.

Born in Cuba in 1915, Carmen Herrera is the oldest contemporary artist on earth. However, her work was stifled until the early 2000s. She didn’t even sell her first piece of artwork until she was 81 years old. The 100 Years Show chronicles the misfortune of Herrera’s talent being overlooked because of her gender and nationality—but the story is undeniably inspiring as it illustrates Herrera’s creative endurance and the power of art to sustain itself for a lifetime.

6. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

Director: Morgan Neville

Starring: Orson Welles, Frank Marshall, Peter Bogdanovich

Runtime: 98 minutes

Orson Welles was dubbed Hollywood’s golden boy after directing Citizen Kane. A perfectionist and cinematic visionary, Welles was held to a higher standard than any other director of his time. After struggling to uphold his reputation, The Other Side of the Wind was poised to redeem his career, but he died before completing it. The incomplete film remained locked in a vault for nearly four decades—until 2018.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a riveting snapshot of Orson Welles’ creative genius and his attempt to create a genre-bending film, or what he called “a departure from [traditional] movie-making.” If this documentary doesn’t give you an appreciation for Welles’ creativity, it’s certain to instill a sense of urgency to act upon your own creative impulses.

7. Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World

Director: Barry Avrich

Starring: Marina Abramovic, Katherine Arnold, Amy Cappellazzo, and more

Runtime: 84 minutes

How does talent find an audience? How does power decide access? What—if anything—is a fair price tag to place on creative ingenuity?

These are the questions Blurred Lines explores through the eyes of renowned artists such as Julian Schnabel, and the powerful players who propel the commercial art industry: insiders from MoMA and Art Basel, gallerists, traders, and more. If you want a candid, amoral look inside the cut-throat business of elite art, grab some popcorn and press play.

8. 44 Pages

Director: Tony Shaff

Runtime: 90 minutes

For more than seven decades, Highlights has shaped the lives of kids from the baby boom generation up to today’s digital natives. The family-owned magazine is an anomaly, with its print edition thriving since 1946 without having sold a single advertisement.

This heartwarming film documents the decisions that go into designing, writing, and producing each 44-page magazine as well as how Highlights is transitioning to the screen while preserving its tradition. Despite the lighthearted tone, the film is packed with insights into product-market fit and how to create work that stands the test of time. 44 Pages oozes nostalgia, so get ready for a trip down memory lane. 

9. Print the Legend

Directors: Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel

Runtime: 99 minutes

Since 1986, 3D printers have built engine parts, braces for teeth, and even artificial human organs. But now, well into the 21st century, 3D printing is ramping up to be the next wave of the technological revolution. It’s a gold rush, but the question remains: which creators will come out on top?

Print the Legend looks behind the scenes at four competitors—3D ystems, Stratasys, MakerBot, and Formlabs—as they race to elevate 3-D printing from a fringe, tech-nerd niche into a mass-market consumer product that anyone can have on their desktop.

10. Have You Seen the Listers?

Director: Eddie Martin

Starring: Anthony Lister

Runtime: 86 minutes

Anthony Lister was destined to be an artist from childhood. Growing up in Australia, he reveled in the street art that surrounded him, and his parents encouraged him to draw whatever popped into his head. Lister quickly became an international icon, selling his works for five-figure checks and rubbing elbows with celebrities such as Paris Hilton. But as Lister built his career, his family life crumbled.

In Have You Seen the Listers? Anthony opens up about his complicated relationship with fame, his inner demons, and his struggle to subvert conservative Australian culture through art. The film is a must-watch for up-and-coming creatives to see the flip-side of stardom.

11. Floyd Norman: An Animated Life

Directors: Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey

Starring: Floyd Norman

Runtime: 94 minutes

When Floyd Norman was a kid, he heard he could never have a career at Disney’s studio. “They don’t hire blacks,” is what his peers told him. Norman wasn’t having it though, and within a few years, he was animating The Jungle Book as Disney’s first black employee. During his tenure working under Walt Disney, Norman floated between animator, layout artist, storyboard artist, and writer until he was let go in 1965. But his creative tank was far from empty. 

This documentary blends interviews and archival footage to tell the fascinating story of Floyd Norman the animator, but more importantly, the story of Floyd Norman the man—who paved a path for black creatives in show business.

12. She Makes Comics

Director: Marissa Stotter

Starring: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Karen Berger, Jenette Kahn, and more

Runtime: 70 minutes

It’s no question that female creatives have been—and often still are—overshadowed by their male counterparts. But one niche industry in which women’s creative achievements are most impressive yet vastly underappreciated is comic books. 

She Makes Comics is comprised of eclectic interviews including underground comic artist Joyce Farmer, Comic-Con administrator Jackie Estrada, and a host of writers and critics. Uplifting, thought-provoking, and fearless, this documentary adds an important perspective to the conversation about gender equality in the creative field.

Got more suggestions for us?

We could spend all day exploring Netflix’s library, but that’s a dangerous rabbit hole to go down. If there’s a Netflix show or movie that designers need to watch, let us know on Twitter @InVisionApp.

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by Dominic Vaiana

Dominic Vaiana is a writer, marketer, and bibliophile based in St. Louis, Missouri. His articles and book recommendations are at