If you're a Designer, you should write.

Not only should you write, you should also do it on your own website.

The other day, I found myself wondering how designers don’t seem to write a lot. I’ve seen my fair share of blogs and the majority that came to mind were by programmers.

I checked my people database.

  • Designers who write: ~36% (22/61)
  • Everyone else: ~54% (20/37)

50% fewer designers maintain blogs compared to others. Could it be selection bias? Definitely, I tend towards adding people with blogs. But play along, we’ll circle back to it later.

Then I remembered that designers do write. On Medium.

Here’s a striking statistic:

  • Medium blogs among Designers: 6/22
  • Medium blogs among the rest: 0/20

Wayy more designers write on Medium than they do on their personal blogs. And this exacerbates the feeling that not enough designers write. I’ve probably read 100s of articles over the last couple of years on Design on Medium. Ask me how many of their authors do I remember? Zilch. I barely even remember the content but I definitely dont remember the authors. The only exception I can think of to this is Julie Zhuo.

On the other hand. Joel Califa’s, Ryan Singer’s names immediately spring to mind when I think of designers who write.

Sure, Medium might give you reach. Maybe 10x more people will read what you’ve written, but if it doesn’t convert into people recognizing your writing and you, how much value is the writing really adding? Also there is a very strong tendency to pander to the masses on Medium and you sub-consciously tend to dilute the content and optimize for clicks/views/favorites.

Another reason I think publishing on Medium vs your own blog is because it’s like speaking on a podcast vs speaking on a stage. You are representing the company in one and even if you are vulnerable, it’s fake vulnerability.

So designers, write. Not just anywhere but on your personal websites. Write on medium if you have to get started but the end goal should be to route the users to your own website.

Okay, Personal websites > Medium. But why should I bother?

The above meme is exactly why most people enjoy podcasts. People like how personal they are. I believe the design industry could do with a lot more personal stories from the front-lines of design.

Examples of content I would like to see more of

Story of how a GoFood’s Redesign didn’t quite work out by Fatema Raja) — This was a great read in part because it took us through a design that did not work out. It had a bit of a marketing feel to it but it still was a good read.

How I got hired at Github — Joel writes about his Design assignment that got him his job at Github

Regex for designers and UX writers - Daniel writes about how designers can use Regex

Some designers with personal blogs

For more, you can check out my Notion database of people. Remember to sort by “Designers who write”.

Why don’t more designers write on their personal websites?

  • Most Designers treat their websites primarily as portfolios. I suspect that if you looked at the website Semplice showcases, a majority of them would not contain writing that was not a case-study.
  • Creating personal websites requires a base amount of technical sophistication that either designers lack or simply do not find it interesting enough in itself. Medium offers a far quicker way to get started.
  • We don’t have an equivalent of Hacker News where people hangout and share primarily text-content. We have Dribbble but it’s not meant for blogposts. This means discovery is difficult.
  • Potentially controversial, but maybe other designers don’t appreciate writing like this enough?
  • Maintaining personal blogs can take a signficant amount of time. Shelf-life of personal blogs is low (example). Yes. But I think that’s still valuable. We’ll fix the archival issue at some point (archive.org tries) but if nobody writes, we won’t have anything worth archiving.
  • A lot of design writing that I’ve come across is case-studies. And those get boring real quick and don’t turn well toward

Why do I write?

  • I realized I already generated a lot of text via journaling and keep notes. But it was very sloppy and unstructured since I knew no one else was going to read it. I wanted to channel it into a more productive pursuit.
  • Writing well is a sign of clear thinking and I want to get better at thinking and communicating, both for my career and in general.
  • “The best part about publicly writing about what you find interesting and important in the world is that it creates a natural funnel of wonderful people reaching out to share perspectives, feedback, and pointers on exactly those topics you care about” h/t Devon Zuegel.
  • I have a natural inclination to write and produce words. It helps that I have very little expectations from all of this. I’m in a produce-mode right now.

More reading?

Here are some posts that contributed to me taking the plunge:

Write in 2016 — Julie Zhuo

Lessons from a surprisingly successful blog — Robert Heaton

The ultimate guide to writing online — David Perell

Jan 2021. Built with Tailwind and Jekyll.