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over 3 years ago from Reece Butler, Freelance Graphic Designer + Developer
Every designer who has the time should take on one of these non profits. Not just juniors.
But I see what you’re getting at. It’s usually the juniors who use unsolicited redesigns to learn and fill their portfolios.
Oh, for sure. My comment was mostly prompted from seeing juniors spending ages doing redesigns rather than cutting their teeth on something like this, but you're absolutely right.
I think we might need to differ here a bit between learning and helping. As a junior you should get as good as possible through learning. You're never learning as much as if you copy the big ones and figure out, why they did stuff they did the way they did it. Because their solutions are already there.
Therefore I like "redesigns" or interpretations of big solutions like spotify / app store / etc. Even though it smells a bit of arrogance, to think one would be good enough to replace a whole design-team of big corporations.
But it helps you getting better. I like it more as a way to learn, than "helping" non-profits. Learning while trying to help can be problematic - but I might be too puristic here.
"I think we might need to differ here a bit between learning and helping. As a junior you should get as good as possible through learning."
Sorry, perhaps I'm missing the point you're trying to make, but I don't see how working on real world projects isn't learning?
"You're never learning as much as if you copy the big ones and figure out, why they did stuff they did the way they did it. Because their solutions are already there."
My main issue with this thinking is that you don't know what the problem their solution solves in the first place. Is it user retention? Performance? Branding? Is the solution they're using just the one their budget allowed for? Without being on the inside, you have no way of knowing this.
For the record, I don't think spending time reverse engineering existing solutions is inherently bad. It's a good exercise to learn the tools of the trade, but really thats all it accomplishes. Hell, it's how I learnt all those years ago, trying to copy Carson, Vignelli etc... But again, it was mostly a way to learn the tools, as without being aware of the problem they were facing or trying to solve, how can you know they did? It would be a different story if these redesigns were taken from simply being mockups, and built out into full functioning app/sites/products that fill a particular need, but they're not.
Again, I don't think, and never said that redesigns don't teach you anything. I just don't think they teach anywhere near as much as working on a problem first hand. And besides, Spotify and friends don't need the help.
"But it helps you getting better. I like it more as a way to learn, than "helping" non-profits. Learning while trying to help can be problematic - but I might be too puristic here.""
I see what you're saying about inexperienced "help" being problematic. I agree somewhat. I do agree that sometimes an inexperienced person "helping" could cause more harm than good.
I do design and web work with a few not-for profits who constantly seem to have offers to help. Always from well meaning people, but more often than not, they come with a particular set of ideas and things they can offer, mostly to benefit themselves. But ultimately they get in the way, or don't offer any material benefit to the organisation. However those that take the time to reach out and spend the time actually finding out what problems the organisation is facing, and how they can then use their skills (developing or otherwise) to assist, is in my eyes a much more beneficial exercise for someone trying to get better in the long run.
Design can't happen in a vacuum. It needs to solve a problem. Designers need to work with people, navigate the real problems they face, have the awkward discussions that will inevitably come up and spend the time doing the work that solves those problems.
Edit: Sorry. This reply ended up being more long winded than I originally intended.
My point is: if you redesign stuff, you need to find out what the problem is they've solved. E.g. search the whole music catalog with a touch device. You also have a solution with wich you can compare your work. If you work for something, you do not have a solution to compare yourself with, it's more difficult to learn.
I'm not talking "rebuilding or copying" without questioning - that has nothing to do with design - that's indeed just learning the typewriter by typing a books pages. I'm talking redesign. Which means imo: solving the same problem in another way. That's how I understood your reference on rebuilding Apples App Store, or Spotify, Uber, Whatever. There are constraints why big corporations build their solutions the way they do. Even if we as designers think, that could've been solved better.
If you work on a new problem, you might miss a lot of points, which you might learn from redesigning for example Spotify. But I say "you might". For sure you can learn a lot of stuff while working - also for non-profits. I found it for my students more helpful to go the "Jared Spool" kind of way. Loved his Boarding Pass example. IMO one of the best possible way to show design-constraints that are not obvious.
If you're a junior or are taking the self-taught path in one of the various disciplines of design, organizations like those listed — and in your local area — are a much better use of your time and energy. Both in terms of real world impact on the work you do, but also in terms of getting real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems.
Well said Reece. I wholeheartedly agree. One thing to note is that it's also more difficult for juniors to genuinely appreciate the value of this advice — which is thrown around a lot, for good reason — without having experienced value from both sides of this spectrum (e.g. surface level design to solving real problems)
The real question to pose, perhaps: How might we get juniors to trust in this way of thinking, without having experienced its benefits. It's been my experience anyway, that I only truly began to see the value in having "real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems" much later in my career. Well past my junior years.
Then again ... blindly following advice isn't great. Especially when it goes against innocuous redesigns that will inevitably be phased out as the designer in question becomes more experienced.
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Whilst the title mentions Spotify specifically, this is more about the practice of unsolicited redesigns in general.
I'm not the author, so can't vouch for the organisations listed, but I thought this was an interesting list of worthy causes that could do with some help.
If you're a junior or are taking the self-taught path in one of the various disciplines of design, organisations like those listed — and in your local area — are a much better use of your time and energy. Both in terms of real world impact on the work you do, but also in terms of getting real, practical, hands on experience with working on and dealing with real world problems.