5 Tips for New Designers When Working With Developers

I’ve worked with a few designers throughout my stuttered career as a developer. Now as I enter my indie mobile development career phase, I find that I rely on designers even more heavily to make my ideas and structures and algorithms become works of art and function. I’ve compiled 5 tips to help designers when working with developers to give you some insight into what I look for when I’m working with a designer. On the flip-side, I would love to hear some tips from designers on what I can do to make their job easier too.

1. “Deliver” On Time
Everyone is entitled to a mis-estimate on delivery but when you tell me that you’ll have me something tomorrow night, I expect to have “something”. And by “something”, I mean the actual sketch or just a friendly email saying, “This is taking longer than expected, I will have something to you by X”. If you are going to be late, always follow up when the next check in will be.


2. Start with Pencil Sketches
A lot of times, I don’t know what I need the interface to look like, sometimes I don’t even care. I just know I have these X elements on the screen that need to be laid out to look appealing to the customer. My favorite designers start with rough sketches in pencil so that I can see the layout and start to get a picture of it in my head.


3. Smart Objects Not Layers
I don’t what version of Photoshop they introduced it in, but Smart Objects are AWESOME! In my layman’s terms, they allow you (me) to treat a series of layers as one image. If you aren’t going to ship the elements to me as individual pieces, please create smart objects of the indidvidual pieces in the master file. Now I have the full image and all I have to do is command-click on the smart object to select the pixels and copy that to a new image to save out. Layers are great if all of the object fits on one layer, but sometimes it is groups of layers.

Photoshop Smart Objects

4. Give Me Options
In tip #2, I showed some pencil sketches one of my designers, Seth Robles, did. He gave me two options for the “name picker” mechanism. This is gives me something to compare the two sketches against (each other) and make a selection. If I didn’t like either, I could go back to him and tell him what I liked/disliked about each sketch.

5. Know Your Target
Know the device/platform that your finished work will end up on. You need to know the screen resolutions, the dpi, etc. For designers of iPhone apps, I always tell them to read “TapWorthy” because it gives practical advice for designing for the iPhone. There are just certain guidelines that need to be followed, like buttons should be ideally 44pixels to accommodate most finger densities. These guidelines need to be taken into consideration when you are designing graphical elements for the device.

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4 Responses to “5 Tips for New Designers When Working With Developers”

  1. Matt C
    March 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    I prefer to work with fireworks files over photoshop, as you get most elements as vectors, in fireworks layers can be grouped, which would be similar to the smart layers feature in photoshop. I also find fireworks makes quick selection of single elements much quicker.

    • Shawn Grimes
      March 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      Thanks for the tip Matt. I haven’t had a designer give me fireworks files yet. Usually they are .psd’s but that might be something to try in the future. Thanks!

  2. Jim
    March 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    You sound pretty easy to work with. 🙂

  3. Michael Kaye
    March 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    One thing every designer needs to know when designing for iOS Devices: “sub pixel rendering”

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