Designers, learn how to articulate your design decisions

almost 3 years ago from , CEO @ Dreamten & GiveForms

Should UX/UI designers code? Yes/no. Who cares. It's up to you.

But, the one thing every UX/UI designer should be able to do: clearly articulate the reasoning behind your design decisions.

I've worked with many designers who subconsciously understand aesthetics, layout, grids, typography, etc. But when it comes to presenting a rationale regarding their design decisions to a client or peers, they're simply not able to. It works "just cause" is not enough.

Topics to guide your design conversations:

  • Business Goals - how does your design align and achieve goals of the business? Every designer should have an understanding of the "why" behind their designs with metrics, stats, or examples to back it up. CEOs don't pay designers to create pretty designs, they're paying for the value those designs deliver.

  • Needs of Users - UX is the intersection of business goals and users needs. Be able to empathize with users, know who they are, and explain why your designs meet users needs.

  • Hierarchy - One of the most important aspect of design. You guide users by making prominent what's most important and obscuring what's less.

Keep in mind that the people you're presenting to are likely not designers themselves (especially clients), so what may be obvious to you may not be to them.

Your ability to communicate your design decisions increases your value as a designer by 10x. Pay as much or more attention to your communication as you do your creative skills and you'll flourish.


  • Florian GrauFlorian Grau, almost 3 years ago

    ... you won't believe what happened next!!

    18 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, almost 3 years ago

    I am very articulate and am able to bring reasoning behind each and every little design decision I make. But I had to learn very quickly, that it doesn't matter. When it comes to anything visual, everyone feels like they have to give their opinion. And why wouldn't they? It is their product after all and yes, even if they are not the end client, they have to also like it - or at leas like it enough to not hate it.

    I remember the emails and pages long explanations of design decisions, just to hear stuff like "but we want it the other way, we like it better".

    The one skill a designer needs to learn, is to integrate stakeholders just enough so they feel involved enough in a design process to fully understand it. It will not work with facts, they have to experience it.

    8 points
    • Valentin de Bruyn, almost 3 years ago

      This. I would add that one of the first moves is to try to identify an "ally", preferably within the stakeholders, that trusts and respects the design process. Or at least, can be educated to do so. The best situation is to have someone inside the client organisation that can explain and support your work on the long term to other stakeholders and the team.

      It's quite basic, but I would say you especially have to be smart and empathetic about who you face... Here's one quite sad but realistic trick I have learned while facing strong-minded people (egos) with no design interest but heavy-weight in the decision making: Sometimes it just might be better to leave small but bold enough design decisions up to the stakeholders in order to let them feel as important as they usually are within their own range of skills (and demonstrate it to their own team).

      I am not especially proud of this pessimistic strategy, but it saved me quite a few times from having designs destroyed because of how teams and companies often work.

      3 points
  • Andrzej TAndrzej T, almost 3 years ago

    I think that's an obvious thing. Designers who can't explain their design decisions, have copied their work, or have used ready-made solutions, or they are simply incompetent. That's my opinion.

    3 points
    • Philip LesterPhilip Lester, almost 3 years ago

      It might seem obvious, but many designers I've interacted with, many who are very talented, do not have this skill.

      5 points
    • John Jackson, almost 3 years ago

      You're assuming that all designers are effective communicators, which isn't the case. There are designers who create fantastic and genuine work, but couldn't explain their decisions if their life depended on it. That does not render the designer incompetent; it means that they have an area of opportunity -- an area to improve upon. If you see a designer struggling in an area, help them, don't label them.

      7 points
  • Jordan Zeit, almost 3 years ago

    Let’s focuse for a second on the delivery ie business goals (the other bullets come second) a UI UXers primary goal is to build a website for a client, at the end of the day this fluffy title grants your access to work on “web sites and mobile applications” as a professional - your specifical title is still a “web designer” (defined by the global trade commission) but there are many out there that actually still use this gem (or webmaster - I miss these). Again, End goal is to deliver a published piece for internet viewers via phone, tablet, smart tv or web. This is basic stuff- If you can’t code, never seen code before or the basic building blocks how to put “stuff” between < and > then you’re not a web designer or the fluffy term UI uXer - you’re a graphic artist good at figma or photoshop or sketch. Which is fine, we work with talented artists, but always their lack of technical ability to layout key pieces of fundamental web frame work will show through. touch code - practice , dive into html - it is so worth it. ANd long live webmasters - a dying breed of unicorn like designers that made the web possible.

    3 points
  • Tyler RenfroTyler Renfro, almost 3 years ago


    1 point
  • Sherita Green, over 2 years ago

    Conversing with individuals about your outlines may appear like a fundamental ability, however, it tends to be hard to do productively and well and, much of the time, how you convey about your work with partners, customers and other non-creators are more basic than the plans themselves basically on the grounds that the most eloquent individual normally wins. Men’s Distressed Leather Jacket

    0 points
  • Joel Cook, almost 3 years ago

    Interesting I should see this post pop up right now. I currently have a copy of Articulating Design Decisions on my desk and am just finishing up the 1st chapter. As a designer I've found it incredibly easy to talk through my design decisions to other designers because we are able to "speak the same language" but I've found in client meetings my ability to articulate my decisions in a way stakeholders would find value to fall a bit short. I've never been in a situation where there has been any serious issue but it's something that I am personally aware of and would like to become better at doing. This is probably a stretch but in my mind I could design the perfect interface but if I'm not able to adequately talk through my design decisions that design may never even see the light of day and that's on me.

    0 points
  • Sylvain MarettoSylvain Maretto, almost 3 years ago

    What are you trying to sell (us) with such a no-shit-sherlock article? Establish your own online branding?

    0 points
    • Philip LesterPhilip Lester, almost 3 years ago

      Nothing, just making an observation that might be obvious to you but isn't to others.

      My next post will be on the constant negativity of designers and how detrimental it is to their careers.

      3 points
  • Ember Moon, almost 3 years ago

    That's more of a conceptual process which you are mentioning and it doesn't only revolves around UX/UI designers. The same can be said for web developers, SEO and others as well. A thing to understand is that sometimes your client isn't willing to listen and improvise what you are trying to do and instead they just want what they want. I will give you an example, a few months a go i made a need assignment help website for my client and it is an academic website but the client insisted on using the wp theme and though it looks not that good for me but he seems happy with it, well you can tell it from your side as well.

    0 points