Blogs and Newsletters can be the new Design Portfolios

Collection of thoughts on whether designers should write, how to let the world know about new posts and why to consider starting a newsletter.

Blogs and Newsletters can be the new Design Portfolios

Collection of thoughts on whether designers should write, how to let the world know about new posts and why to consider starting a newsletter.

As a hiring manager, I was reviewing designer portfolios regularly. Behance and Dribbble are popular choices to showcase a designer's work. Some use more advanced website builders like Squarespace, Webflow, or Semplice. There are even those unicorns who share Notion docs, Figma prototype links, Miro boards. In all these, there is great and not-so-great work shown, regardless of the platform.

What I am looking for in my recruitment hunt are good stories and case studies. For me, a good case study is going beyond the "what was my role in the project" and photos of sticky notes or images of the perfect double diamonds. A good case study shares the story of something specific, something that shows what learning emerged during the project. This is a rare treasure to find.

It is important to see screens and flows from a designer, which shows the attention to detail in visual and interaction design. For me, it is critical to get to know how the designer thinks, what makes the person excited, where one's passion lies. For that, I love reading designer blogs.

Portfolios often include case studies, with rigid structures to list the person's role, responsibilities, timeline, process, goals of the project. My problem with these studies is the distance from reality. These aspects of a project are not dependent only on the designer therefore it can only assess the org where the person works. So rather than documenting projects and listing goals, designers begin writing about concepts, ideas about technology, psychology, tools, practices.

Designer blogs are rare to find while still there are many well-articulated designers, with super interesting stories to share. These stories often surfaced on Design Team blogs and on online publications not on personal sites. I listed some of my favorite sources at the end of this post.

Should designers (code) write?

But why should a designer write? To whom? To a random hiring manager who will stumble upon my blog?

Similar to crafting code, writing is not meant for everyone but many enjoy and appreciate the process. For me, writing helps reflecting, structuring, and articulating my thoughts, and that's why I make time for it.

The Shining 1980 Stanley Kubrick

How to get started

There are well-known platforms to begin: WordPress, Medium, Ghost, Substack. These are coming with word processors with basic HTML text formatting and they are pushing new posts to dedicated RSS feeds. The basic formatting is beneficial for Reader views and RSS feeds are great not only for RSS readers but for search and news engines too.

Writing comes easy for some and for some it is a challenging craft, with rigorous rewriting. I recommend reading On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. This book made me conscious about rewriting and the pursuit of finding clarity and eliminating clutter.

"Rewriting is the essence of writing."

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

How will the world know that I wrote something?

In recent years more and more design newsletters started. These newsletters are sharing daily or weekly emails with curated, recent, relevant links. Many newsletters are sponsored by design tools or companies with job openings and some do it for fun.

Recently blogs are transforming into newsletters because there is no other channel to notify your audience about new content. RSS readers' popularity declined after 2013 when Google Reader was closed. Feedly, NetNewsWire, Feedbin, or other readers are not going to cover similar wide audiences. So until we will not fixing the world wide web's information consumption, we are left with sending emails and tweeting about our new posts.

This is why Ghost, Substack, and Medium lets the audience subscribe to a creator and creators can send newsletters to their followers.

Tools for writing

Hemingway app - helps to improve the readability of the text by removing clutter, shorten sentences.

Grammarly - goes beyond grammar and guides stylistically too.

Design Team blogs to follow

Some design-led companies are dedicating resources to share high-quality stories regularly. These publications are great to keep your finger in the industry's pulse.

due to the lack of RSS feeds on the design team blogs, I use their Twitter accounts to get notified about their updates. Unfortunately, there is no RSS feeds for Twitter afaik, but there are tools like Feedly and Feedbin that lets you follow Twitter accounts next to RSS feeds

Designer Blogs to follow

I am still collecting good ones to subscribe for. please send me recommendations and I will add them to this list

Digital publications to follow

Design newsletters to subscribe for

Kong: Skull Island 2017 Jordan Vogt-Roberts