A simple Google search for educational design resources online yields 6,250,000,000 results — there’s no wonder for those starting out as a designer, it may feel overwhelming to know where to begin. As with mastering any subject, grasping key foundational knowledge is critical before becoming an expert in the field.

Below are some crucial facets of design I believe every creative should know. As a designer, I can attest that I use my knowledge in these pillars in some way, shape, or form in my day-to-day role.

Müller-Brockman’s legacy in swiss design

Grid Systems

Every page starts off as a blank slate. Similar to the process of…

Quick 10-minute graphic I made in Sketch

All of us chase the “perfect job” — one that encompasses our special checklist of hand-chosen attributes. Some of us spend years in trial and error periods; some of us figure it out earlier. Thankfully, I’m one of the “lucky” ones. While I can’t say it was an easy journey, I wholeheartedly know jumping into design was the right move for me.

For anyone on their own path of discovery, I hope my story offers reassurance with the unknown ahead; I know reading this a year ago would’ve prevented me from feeling alone in my situation.

First things first, why the switch?

“What do I want…

Team members discussing action items on a calendar
Image by Unini

Why mentorship matters

Mentorships are mutually beneficial relationships where both individuals derive value, growth, and fulfillment. Mentors guide newcomers through a company, teach new skills to more junior designers, and reinforce the knowledge by sharing expertise on various subject matters. In return, mentees grow out of the experience more confident in their abilities, more comfortable with their given role, and ultimately see notable progression in their career.

As a first-time product design mentor, I learned immensely and wanted to share helpful tips I’ve collected from my experience:

1. Set up weekly hour-long 1:1s.

Weekly 1:1 meetings are great environments to discuss any agenda topic with your mentee. In the…

Charles and Ray Eames high-fiving in their studio
Charles and Ray high-fiving each other in their studio

Take a look at the chair pictured in the image below — it’s likely you recognize it as one of the most iconic architectural objects of our time. It was simply one of many inventions Ray and Charles Eames created as artistic partners over the course of three decades. The two thought of work as play, approaching projects with a childlike lens and an endearing partnership.

Geometric art piece by Hilma af Klint
Group IX/SUW №12 by Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint

Deemed the first modern artist of the Western World, Hilma af Klint was a Swedish creative who credited her creative abilities to a divine, spiritual authority. Her abstract paintings in the 20th century reflected bold, imaginative aesthetics—carrying an essence the world had yet seen before.

Because of this nature, she kept her work incredibly private and only permitted their release twenty years following her passing: a collection totaling 1,200 paintings, 100 texts, and 26,000 pages of notes. Only over the subsequent three decades post-1986 have her paintings and works begun to receive serious attention for their distinctive qualities.

Designer at desk with nearby art artifacts
Illustration by Peter Tarka

Every company I’ve ever applied to as a product designer has required a portfolio presentation interview. It’s a great way for employers to learn more about who you are and what projects you’ve worked on. It’s also a chance for you to discuss how you collaborate with others to solve problems, showcase what you’re capable of producing, and exhibit your skillset to your new potential team.

I’d recommend preparing a slide-deck for the presentation as they’re the best storytelling tool in my opinion. Below are my tips for success for a successful portfolio review:

1. Start by introducing yourself.

A great way to set the…

MongoDB’s career page featuring our “Meet the Team” blog post
Our product design piece featured on our company blog!

Diving into a company’s blog is one of the best ways I learn about an organization. It offers a glimpse into who I could be potentially working with, the projects I could take ownership of, and what the culture is like. In a sense, my first impression can be formed prior to meeting anyone from the teams.

With these thoughts in mind, I conceived the idea of creating a blog post series to highlight our designers at MongoDB. I was certain it’d be a great avenue to educate candidates on who we are, what we do, and what we find…

Artist standing in a gradient mist
Image credit: CNN News

As creatives, it’s undeniable that we propagate ourselves into our work. Our backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs help shape our decisions regarding the projects we take on and the messages we amplify. There’s no doubt that with the presence of an audience comes great responsibility — especially in leveraging mediums to stir conversations we find important.

In the case of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist known for his installation pieces, art is seen as a platform to share ideas and inspire change. …

Collage of Glossier products and models
Image source: Get the Gloss

If you aren’t living under a rock, chances are you may have heard of, seen, or purchased a product from Glossier in recent years.

That’s because this beauty brand has taken millennial consumer markets by storm, climbing into unicorn territory ($1.2 billion valuation) in a matter of six years. Today, the company sports over two million Instagram followers, $100+ million in annual revenue from its line of thirty-six products, and an impressive cult following since its mere inception in 2014.

Apple branding
Iconic Apple branding from their current homepage

In its simplest form, branding is the practice of influencing and controlling a set of associations with a company to help the business’s performance. Done successfully, an organization’s identity will be tied to select attributes—promoting its image or popularity.

While absolute control over a brand is not possible, it can be influenced through deliberate design, advertising, and marketing. By these means, companies can clearly communicate the principles they stand for to target audiences. Considering the power of this practice, it’s crucial that an organization masters the pillars of creating a strong brand to get ahead.

What is strong branding?

A strong brand adds value to your product.

It differentiates you from competitors…

Michelle Chiu

Product designer at Facebook Creative X (165K+ views). Prev. Microsoft, Apple, DoorDash, BuzzFeed, Wish, & MongoDB. Tweets at www.twitter.com/michelle__chiu

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