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The 13 Most Important Design Lessons Of 2013

From why designers should learn to code to how not to run a Kickstarter campaign, here's a cheat sheet to being great at your job in 2014.

  • <p><strong>Take UX cues from an original mad man.</strong><br />
<em>Confessions of an Advertising Man</em>, published by advertising legend David Ogilvy in 1963, is as relevant to today's UX designers as it was to yesterday's mad men. Method's Ted Booth explains. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672597/11-rules-for-great-ux-design-adapted-from-an-original-mad-man" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Learn to code. Like yesterday. </strong><br />
Designers: Coding will make you better at your job. Involution Studios's Scott Sullivan shows how to get started. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672655/designers-learn-to-code-heres-how-to-start" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Master contextual computing.</strong><br />
The future of technology is contextual computing, the notion that ubiquitous computers will act like our sixth (and seventh and eighth) sense. To succeed in the contextual-computing era, companies need to master four key data graphs, writes Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates. Check them out here. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672531/the-future-of-technology-isnt-mobile-its-contextual" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>What is your "mission question"?</strong><br />
Most companies have a mission statement. Companies that want to stay focused on what really matters, though, should have "mission questions," author Warren Berger says. Here, he formulates five questions every company should ask itself, based on conversations with Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan, Panera CEO Ron Shaich, Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen, Peer Insight’s Tim Ogilvie, and SY Partners’ Keith Yamashita. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672137/forget-the-mission-statement-whats-your-mission-question" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Details are everything.</strong> <br />
In <em>Microinteractions</em>, author Dan Saffer makes the case that details aren't just a small piece of design, they're what makes design more human and humane. Read our interview with Saffer, the head of interaction design at Smart Design, here. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672922/the-future-of-ux-design-tiny-humanizing-details" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>What the Instagram of quizzes reveals about app design.</strong> <br />
Luke Wroblewski, the designer of the insanely addictive polling app Polar, offers four tips for getting people to engage with your mobile app, and not just download it. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672257/4-surprising-app-design-principles-from-the-instagram-of-quick-quizzes" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Borrow from the best.</strong><br />
When starting the eyewear retailer Warby Parker, CEOs Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa lifted inspiration from other companies. "We thought a lot about Zappos and how they changed the game from a customer service standpoint," Blumenthal said. "They created this awesome internal company culture that then impacted the customer experience and their brand." Good CEOs borrow, great CEOs steal. Read four more business lessons from Warby Parker. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3016313/design-50/dynamic-duos-5-brilliant-business-lessons-from-warby-parkers-ceos" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Lead a creative life.</strong> <br />
"Everyone can learn to be more creative, but to become very creative, I’ve come to believe you need to lead a creative life," author Bruce Nussbaum writes. Here, he suggests three paths toward a more creative life. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671921/3-paths-toward-a-more-creative-life" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>How not to run a Kickstarter campaign.</strong> <br />
Designer Jon Fawcett raised more than $200,000 on Kickstarter to manufacture an iPhone charger that could also be used as a docking station and a tripod. Then shit got real. Check out these five tips for running a successful Kickstarter campaign from a guy who learned the hard way. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672681/life-after-kickstarter-5-costly-lessons-from-a-kickstarter-backed-designer#3" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Give employees time to think.</strong> <br />
Want to create a culture of innovation? Give employees free time to experiment with new ideas, plus five more tips from <em>Leapfrogging</em> author Soren Kaplan. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672718/6-ways-to-create-a-culture-of-innovation" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Zen your way to success.</strong><br />
You probably know about Zen in broad strokes, but you probably don't know about the aesthetic fundamentals of the “Zen of design.” Edit Innovation founder Matthew May shares seven design principles inspired by Zen wisdom. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671947/7-design-principles-inspired-by-zen-wisdom" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Create great storyboards.</strong> <br />
Want to run a successful design sprint? Make killer storyboards. Google Ventures's Jake Knapp explains how. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672917/the-8-steps-to-creating-a-great-storyboard" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • <p><strong>Play with marbles.</strong> <br />
Google uses a 3:1 rule to examine the costs and benefits of a given design solution, following the principle of psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, who discovered that it takes three positive emotions to outweigh every negative one. So each time an Android feature lives up to certain expectations, it gets a single marble in the "good emotion" jar. Each time it fails, it gets three marbles in the "bad emotion" jar. Too granular? Perhaps. But hey, at least you get to play with marbles. [<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672657/google-s-dead-simple-tool-for-making-ux-decisions-2-jars-of-marbles" target="_self">Link</a>]</p>
  • 01 /13

    Take UX cues from an original mad man.
    Confessions of an Advertising Man, published by advertising legend David Ogilvy in 1963, is as relevant to today's UX designers as it was to yesterday's mad men. Method's Ted Booth explains. [Link]

  • 02 /13

    Learn to code. Like yesterday.
    Designers: Coding will make you better at your job. Involution Studios's Scott Sullivan shows how to get started. [Link]

  • 03 /13

    Master contextual computing.
    The future of technology is contextual computing, the notion that ubiquitous computers will act like our sixth (and seventh and eighth) sense. To succeed in the contextual-computing era, companies need to master four key data graphs, writes Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates. Check them out here. [Link]

  • 04 /13

    What is your "mission question"?
    Most companies have a mission statement. Companies that want to stay focused on what really matters, though, should have "mission questions," author Warren Berger says. Here, he formulates five questions every company should ask itself, based on conversations with Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan, Panera CEO Ron Shaich, Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen, Peer Insight’s Tim Ogilvie, and SY Partners’ Keith Yamashita. [Link]

  • 05 /13

    Details are everything.
    In Microinteractions, author Dan Saffer makes the case that details aren't just a small piece of design, they're what makes design more human and humane. Read our interview with Saffer, the head of interaction design at Smart Design, here. [Link]

  • 06 /13

    What the Instagram of quizzes reveals about app design.
    Luke Wroblewski, the designer of the insanely addictive polling app Polar, offers four tips for getting people to engage with your mobile app, and not just download it. [Link]

  • 07 /13

    Borrow from the best.
    When starting the eyewear retailer Warby Parker, CEOs Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa lifted inspiration from other companies. "We thought a lot about Zappos and how they changed the game from a customer service standpoint," Blumenthal said. "They created this awesome internal company culture that then impacted the customer experience and their brand." Good CEOs borrow, great CEOs steal. Read four more business lessons from Warby Parker. [Link]

  • 08 /13

    Lead a creative life.
    "Everyone can learn to be more creative, but to become very creative, I’ve come to believe you need to lead a creative life," author Bruce Nussbaum writes. Here, he suggests three paths toward a more creative life. [Link]

  • 09 /13

    How not to run a Kickstarter campaign.
    Designer Jon Fawcett raised more than $200,000 on Kickstarter to manufacture an iPhone charger that could also be used as a docking station and a tripod. Then shit got real. Check out these five tips for running a successful Kickstarter campaign from a guy who learned the hard way. [Link]

  • 10 /13

    Give employees time to think.
    Want to create a culture of innovation? Give employees free time to experiment with new ideas, plus five more tips from Leapfrogging author Soren Kaplan. [Link]

  • 11 /13

    Zen your way to success.
    You probably know about Zen in broad strokes, but you probably don't know about the aesthetic fundamentals of the “Zen of design.” Edit Innovation founder Matthew May shares seven design principles inspired by Zen wisdom. [Link]

  • 12 /13

    Create great storyboards.
    Want to run a successful design sprint? Make killer storyboards. Google Ventures's Jake Knapp explains how. [Link]

  • 13 /13

    Play with marbles.
    Google uses a 3:1 rule to examine the costs and benefits of a given design solution, following the principle of psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, who discovered that it takes three positive emotions to outweigh every negative one. So each time an Android feature lives up to certain expectations, it gets a single marble in the "good emotion" jar. Each time it fails, it gets three marbles in the "bad emotion" jar. Too granular? Perhaps. But hey, at least you get to play with marbles. [Link]

In 2013, some of the brightest design minds took to Co.Design to offer tips and tricks for navigating the business world. Our experts tackled everything from how to code to what a 50-year-old book about the ad industry could teach today's UX designers. Here, we've compiled the year's most important design lessons. Consider it a cheat sheet to being great at your job in 2014.

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