I had a coaching call yesterday with someone who wanted to get into writing. He reached out to me, as I'm probably most known for my writing by now, despite being a designer by trade. It's been a recurring topic on many coaching calls this last year, so I figured it might be worth sharing some of the subjects I tend to cover when talking about writing.
Years ago, I wrote a post about why I think designers need to write. (I've also written about why I think designers need to speak business, so I guess I demand a lot from designers, apart from designing. But the thing about design as a profession is that you will need to be able to communicate your design. Unfortunately, I've seen too many designers show their designs and expect their beauty to tell the whole story (this is pretty much what Dribbble is, and that's fine, but I think a senior designer needs to do more).
While a wireframe might come across as very straightforward, it showcases a page's features, hierarchy, and layout. But creating great user experiences is just as much about creating an experience to make the user feel something. And unfortunately, wireframes are terrible at conveying feelings. This is where your communication skills come in handy. The best way to improve your communication skills? By writing.
"A core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of 'what if' scenarios. These are the skills of a writer — all kinds of writers, but particularly fiction, screenwriting, and technical writing."
- Susan Stuart
Getting better at writing is just like getting better at almost anything. It just takes practice. Sure, you can take classes and read books, but just like playing the piano or running, it will only get you so far. How to improve your running? Run more often. How to get better at playing the piano? Practice more. How to get better at writing? That's right, write more.
"Design is about getting things out there — not perfecting them — and seeing how they do. Writing is similar. Get it out there and see how it does. Learn from that, then improve."
- Michelle Claessens
Write more, and you'll be able to find your voice. Sure, I'm inspired by other designers (that also write), but the key has been to find the way I write. For example, when I first started writing, I wanted to mimic the voice of Paul Jarvis. Paul's writing was funny and borderline provocative! So I tried writing just like him. But here's the thing, that's not how I talk to people. I'm not particularly funny, and I think anyone that's ever met me or worked with me can testify that I'm certainly not provocative.
So if you want to get started with writing, just start.
Now start writing (if that's what you want). Who's your favorite writer? Please let me know! (Bonus point if it's less white male than the list above)