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Google Ventures On 12 Shortcuts Designers Should Never Take

Great designers don’t need the dark arts to succeed.

Google Ventures On 12 Shortcuts Designers Should Never Take
[Images: Abstract, Jewels, Moods via Shutterstock]

Designers can be tempted to cut corners to get the job done. Whether you’re a designer–or a CEO, a product manager, or an engineer who works with designers–you’ll want to watch out for these shortcuts. Great designers don’t need the dark arts to succeed.

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The shiny object
Distracting a decision-maker with fancy effects to wallpaper over a mediocre solution. “Don’t worry about the user flows… check this out this sweet parallax effect!”


The mirage
Using ideal photographs, perfect-length names, and carefully written descriptions to make an interface look immaculate.

The under-the-radar
Sneaking design past decision-makers: “Oh boy, if we make any changes we’ll miss our launch date by three weeks. So how about we just launch and see?”

The horse trader
Making trade-offs that have nothing to do with the project at hand: “Sure, we can squeeze another ad in there if you agree to improve the signup flow, too.”

The designer’s veto
Playing the “I’m the designer” card to veto a decision. It’s tempting to shut down a product discussion simply by dint of your job title, but if you can’t explain a design decision in language that other people will understand, you don’t deserve to wear your Ampersandwich T-shirt.

The false facade
Designing a single screen in isolation and getting approval before you’ve really thought things through: “Great, we have sign off! Now we just have to figure everything out.”

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The moody artist
Sometimes designers have a reputation akin to artists–passionate geniuses who delve deep into their souls to find creativity. Some designers think this gives them license to act like children. If you have to raise your voice to win a debate, you’ve already lost.

The used-car salesman
Some designers can convince you their work is genius even though it’s going to fail when people use it. “This interaction I’ve invented is genius! Once people get used to it they’ll never look back!”

The fast talker
Not letting people get a word in edgewise during a critique. It’s like skating on thin ice–if you keep moving fast enough, you’ll never fall through.

The jargon master
Using kerning, color theory, UX, IA, HCI, GUI, TLAs, cognitive load, Swiss grids, Fitt’s Law, multivariate tests, and other silly terms to isolate people from the debate. “Trust me, I have an HCI degree and it all makes sense because the leading in the action sheet reduces cognitive load.”

The statistical manipulator
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. “Our [almost impossible to use] mobile site only has 15% month-over-month growth, so let’s jettison it and focus on the thing I’m passionate about!”

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The passive aggressive
“Suuure, I’ll try your idea.” Sure you will.

About the author

Daniel Burka is a design partner at Google Ventures. He founded Milk and Silverorange, and led design for Digg and Tiny Speck.

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