As a software developer who is interested in design, I’ve always wanted to learn design skills but kept putting it off. Things were also different a few years ago. The main options for design software were expensive and bloated (cough* Adobe) and I wasn’t excited to buy or use any of them.
I wanted a design tool that was simple, powerful, and ran great on a Mac. I tried Pixelmator but didn’t actually make anything with it. One day I read that one of my favorite designers, Mark Jardine from TapBots, was using a Mac application called Sketch. I was interested but stopped myself from getting it since I already had Pixelmator and it was just collecting dust.
When I heard about the Design+Code book, it seemed like it was made for me. The timing with the Sketch 3 release made it more exciting since I could learn about design while also learning how to use one of the latest and greatest design tools.
Working through the book was an ideal learning experience. Watching Meng use Sketch to design an app felt like the best way to learn since everything was being shown in a real context (designing and making an iOS app from the ground up).
I had already been developing iOS apps for years so I focused on the first two chapters, which are about design principles, techniques, and Sketch. It’s smart that the book touches on all of the major areas of design in short sections. You get a quick understanding of the important stuff that is just enough so that you can actually go make something. I found myself returning to the book as a reference and diving deeper into the links and resources when I would get stuck in my work, like when I got frustrated while picking colors for a screen I was designing.
I had been kicking myself for years about making a new iOS app and now I had some basic design skills down. It was exciting to use the new skills and being a weather nerd I decided to make a weather app (Comfort for iOS).
I started with rough sketches on paper then created designs in Sketch. In the past I would have started coding much sooner but I knew that one of the most motivating things as a developer is to have a design for a screen before you start working on it. I know that sounds silly but most developers will get the joke. Having a design lets you focus on execution instead of thinking about what exactly you are trying to make. Also, code usually takes longer to write and is harder to change so being able to try things in Sketch makes the process smoother. I refer to knowing how to use Sketch as a new superpower since it gives me a way to figure out things more quickly than in code. In some cases it probably takes longer but in those cases it usually means I’m working out little details that will lead to a higher quality product.
As a developer, my first instict is to code something then look at it. After a few months of designing with Sketch, I still find myself thinking that I can just start coding a screen and then remember that I should probably design it in Sketch first. It’s a subtle difference but when I work with the design in Sketch I can iterate on it quickly in a different mode of thought than in Xcode.