Designing for a Designer

The irony of designers is that they often neglect to design the things closest to them. They spend so much time on projects for others that they de-prioritize their own portfolios. So what a treat it was to get some refreshing critique over a homemade pizza dinner with Karolina and Erik during my trip to Denver. Erik and I had worked together at Capital One, and Karolina is an architect and engineer who now practices her design in the digital realm. She has also designed 300+ book covers, and within two minutes had made 3 brilliant observations:

  1. The "D" looks awkward (I had simply used Arial and knocked out the stem).
  2. The proportions of your name are way to big.
  3. Is there a gradient? Maybe it should be clearer.

Karolina asked me to send my Illustrator file over and she worked magic:


broken image


The level of creativity and thoughtfulness in this next iteration of the design felt so right. Beyond the outer graphic design, there was an inner feeling of peace that comes from knowing you're being well considered and cared for. That you're worth it.

So Karolina is now designing the very first spread in the book, collecting the principles from each of the 12 chapters into a single illustration. She was kind enough to offer all of this design as a gift, but I insisted that she charge me her actual rate. It was an unexpected collaboration that taught me lessons around reaching out for help, the beauty of critique, finding ways to slow down, and above all - how to appreciate and invest in brilliant design!

I'll close this week's update by sharing the 12 design principles from the book.

Stay uplifted!

// dan

Dan Makoski, Chief Design Advisor


Great design is personal.
The paradox of meaningful design is that it is best when it serves others, yet comes from a deeply personal place of creative compassion.

Great design is collaborative.
Diverse teams aligned around the needs of people are a much stronger force for design innovation than the stereotype of one lone creative genius.

Great design is selfless.
A designer’s greatest strength lies not in their artistic skills alone, but in their ability to transform empathy for the lives and needs of others into solutions.

Great design is ambitious.
Design’s potential is fully realized in creating a much better future, and should not become consumed by the mediocre pursuit of incrementalism.

Great design is participatory.
Everyone is creative, can tell their stories when there is trust, can imagine a better future, and are thus the most potent source of design innovation.

Great design is captivating.
Design is not just about crafting every detail of a perfect artifact, it is also about helping write the story of peoples’ lives.

Great design guides.
The story of peoples’ lives is a more sustainable and robust roadmap for continuous design innovation than competitive or technology landscapes alone.

Great design is focused.
Constraints generate good design. A clear understanding of who you’re designing for, what they need and how to measure success generates great design.

Great design comes from great teams.
Organizing design skills into department silos dilutes both encouragement for designers to adopt new skills and the power of multi-disciplinary design studios to innovate.

Great design has meaningful momentum.
Compassion generates a feeling of urgency to help people in shorter cycles of measurable design impact.

Great design leads to positive measurable impact.
Measuring a design’s impact on peoples’ lives is the ultimate expression of respect for both the value of a designer’s time and the lives it touches.

Great design is for everyone.
Design is both a deep professional domain and a broad catalyst for an organization’s ability to uplift their creativity and empathy.