Tips for Cheating at Design

I don’t know about you, but for myself, whenever I am working on a product design project, I find myself cutting corners, avoiding some things, and even doing some things conventions won’t allow. Some call it cheating, but I care less about that provided I am not doing things wrong in the real sense of the word. And guess what? I have not had any of my designs ruined trying to cheat at designing; instead, I have been able to design better masterpieces within a short period of time — and I have developed myself to become a better product designer.

At Plant, we do not support our designers to cheat. We encourage them to follow conventions and make sure they do so judiciously. However, as we have discovered along the line, just like myself, some of our designers have been trying to cheat in a good way and coming up with beautiful hacks that we would never have thought of. This means that cheating at design is not entirely a bad practice, especially if you aren’t stealing someone’s work and infringing on a copyright. And besides, it is not cheating. Below are the top tips for cheating at design.

Do Not Follow Professional Opinions Blindly

Conventions and professional opinions are very key to the development of any discipline. In fact, without them, product design won’t be where they are. But let me tell you something — they can slow you down and cage you. If you aren’t careful, you might end up becoming as good as the convention and professional opinions allow. There’s one secret nobody is telling you — many professionals are not even following their own advice. So why should you do so blindly?

Likewise, conventions are not written on stones. While it is good practice to follow them, in some instances, not following them is actually a good thing. History is made by those who try out new things, and sticking to the norms and conventional ways of doing things won’t give you that privilege. However, it is not advisable to do this blindly. By not following conventions blindly, you have the opportunity to move ahead of your peers. Not following them completely will make you a terrible designer, regardless of your skillset. You just have to know that nobody will want to collaborate with a designer with no regard for convention.

Use Other Designers’ Work as Inspiration

I don’t know if you have been sold the idea of originality for too long that you feel working from scratch is the only way for you to be original. However, if you think that you do not need to look at the work of others and take inspiration from them, then you are making a mistake. No one is asking you to copy other designers’ work, and if you do, you won’t go far before being dragged for copyright infringement.

What then am I saying here? You can take a look at the designs of others to know how certain things are done. You get to discover the latest trends and key to them early. It also saves you a lot of valuable time, which you could use for other things.

Use Two Different Background Colors

Do you want your design to stand out and look more professional? Then you need to rethink your idea about background color. For some designers, they have this idea of having one background color for their piece, and some experts are even recommending it. However, have you tried using two background colors for your projects before? It will make your design stand out when done correctly. And mind you, I am not saying you should use two background blindly. However, if you have to segment, using the same color with different shade will make both stand out.

Mind your Use of Borders

Using borderlines is great, especially when you need to distinguish between elements close to each other. But do you know that borders can make your work look cluttered without a breathing space? Instead of using borders mindlessly, you can opt for a better option like spacing. In the past, borders have been used a lot. Modern designs are looking at ways to do without using borders, and you can see that a lot in many designs. If you must make use of borders, make sure the design can’t do without it, and it won’t end up cluttering your design. There are, however, instances when borders can make your work less clustered and even more beautiful.

Consider Non-colored Buttons

This particular tip is meant for web designers. One other way to cheat at design uncommon with designers is not providing color for a button. It is common practice that all buttons on a web page have colors attached to them. However, have you tried using non-colored buttons? Well, I have tried, and I must say it looks better than you think. However, you need to understand that before it will have the effect it should, other buttons need to be colored, and it has to be for the less important buttons.

Looking at the above, you can see that while there are laid down conventions and expert advice and opinions to follow, sometimes, you just have to overlook them and try something different. There are many things you can try to make your work more accepted and better looking. Some of these things you can try are seen as cheats, and the above are 5 of them.


Tips for Cheating at Design was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.