Sketch Resources

Sketch is a great design tool. It reduces my cognitive load while designing and helps me save valuable time, work fast and accurately. Here are some of the Sketch plugins/templates that make Sketch the awesomest! 

Sketch Plugins

Sketch Toolbox
Your one-stop shop for all Sketch plugins. All you have to do is click install and you are ready to go. A word of warning though. You really don't need ALL the plugins all the time. 

Content Generator Plugin
This is a great plugin I use for almost all my projects. You can fill text areas with lorem ipsum, generate profile pics and create user names quickly.

Sketch Notebook
Want to add notes to your Sketch designs? Then this tool is for you. You can hide the notes and continue working on your designs. Once you are ready to send the designs over you can unhide the notes. 

Sketch Measure
Yes there will inevitably come a time where you will need to hand over the designs to developers.  With this plugin you can quickly add measurements such as distance, coordinates, properties

I will be adding more resources to this list so stay tuned for more!

 

How do I love thee Sketch? Let me count the ways.

A tool is a tool is a tool.

Sketch is a great tool. It has helped me speed up my design workflow tremendously.

Here are some of the things I love about Sketch.

  1. Style library
  2. Symbol library
  3. Non-destructive path editing (Boolean Operations)
  4. Ease of slicing
  5. Ease of exporting different formats and sizes (.svg, .png, .pdf, @2x, @3x)
  6. Smart guides
    1. Measuring distances between objects. (Personal favorite)
    2. Guides show up when an object is equal distance or has same width as other objects that are close by.
  7. Custom plugins
  8. Text box sizing (Automatic and Fixed)
  9. Size hinting within vertical and horizontal rulers
  10. Artboards
    1. Duplicating artboards
    2. Resizing artboards
    3. Each artboard has it's own coordinates
    4. Each artboard has it's own guides
    5. Duplicating artboards with locked layers? Not to worry. They get duplicated too!

I am sure there are many more but these are the ones that come to mind.

Sketch isn't perfect by any means either. It has its limits, quirks and WTF's. Overall for being a product in it's infancy I think Bohemian Coding has done a great job in saving us from the clutches of that other company that has us locked in to monthly serfdom fee ;)

Got Sketch tips you want to share? Hit me up on Twitter.

Charlie's Cheap Therapy - Improv To The Rescue!

Being and introvert I am always looking for ways to improve my public speaking skills. Whether it is client presentation, a lunch presentation at work, or even communicating my ideas clearly to team members I want to make all my communication effective. Sandra Niehaus, the Creative Director at Closed Loop had suggested to our UX team that we try out Improv classes to help with our presentation/communication skills.  One of the classes she suggested was Charlie's Cheap Therapy in Sacramento which I decided to try out.  

The improv class was great. We played a lot of different games. There were many times I froze up but continued the scenes. Even though I have only taken one class I am already thinking ways to improve my performance and I am excited about continuing taking these classes.

You should definitely try out an improv class. It is fun and educational at the same time.

 

Design Presentations Are Fun!

During my journey as a UX Designer at Closed Loop, I have learned many things for which I am extremely grateful for. A skill I needed to tackle was presenting to clients. This was a gray area for me.

This is how it usually went:

  1. Feeling of dread would encompass me as the meeting time drew closer and closer.
  2. Profuse sweating would ensue as the meeting started.
  3. My heart rate would sky rocket.
  4. I would speed through the presentation and skip over things I really wanted to talk about.
  5. My throat would dry up like the Sahara desert forcing me to drink a gallon of water during the meeting.
  6. Rinse, Lather and Repeat.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

- Jimmy Cliff

That was before until a friend and project manager extraordinaire @AmyKapell suggested I use a framework for organizing my presentations. She suggested I write down my thoughts in a structured way just like research papers.

The structure looks like this:

  1. Provide a brief overview of what I will cover during my presentation.
  2. Inform the client what type of feedback we are looking for and when to provide it (during or after the design presentation)
  3. Review the designs. 
  4. Summarize the presentation.
  5. Gather feedback.

I have used this structure for a few presentations already which caused me to exclaim, " I can't wait to give my next presentation!". Now the gray cloud of doubt has gone away and I can see clearly now. 

Bring on the next design presentation!


Your Mood Should Not Dictate Your Manners

When things are going great we all have a positive attitude. We are polite and nice to everyone around us. We are helpful and cheerful and smile back when people smile at us. The story is not the same when things start going south. Whether it is in a project, in your work life or in your personal life you will come up against challenges which will affect your mood.

How do you handle yourself when you are under a lot of stress? Do you snap at the next person who stops by to say hi? Do you take your anger out on the first person you see?

The true gauge of a professional is how they handle themselves when things are not so great. Keep your calm and don't let outside influences change your manners. 

Of course this is easier said than done. The only way to get better at it is to realize when you are in a stressful state and consciously not to let the situation affect you. The more you practice this approach the more you will feel in control to weather any storm. 

Here are some ways to keep your mood in check:

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Take mini breaks
  • Exercise regularly
  • Communicate your thoughts and feelings

How do you cope with stressful situations? Share your ideas on Twitter.

Ideal is not always the best

As designers we love to show content laid out perfectly on pages. It starts with sketching the right amount of lines to show content blocks. Next come the wireframes, so we add lorem ipsum text to the designs and continue to show the exact amount of text. All is good so far. We then move the wireframes in to visual design and now we can see our design in it's full glory. 

There is a problem however.

We accounted for the perfect amount of text to be placed in our designs and as we all know content doesn't always turn out to be the exact same length we plan it to be. 

Some of the elements we need to account for various lengths are:

  • Names
    You started out with John Doe as your text placeholder. Will your design adjust to longer, multi-syllable names?
  • Headlines
    You accounted for just two lines of text. How will your design look with three lines? 
  • Subtitles
    You accounted for one line but now you need to add three lines. 
  • Text Blocks
    If you accounted for only 10 words and not a word more. How will your design handle 15 words?

So as we can see ideal is not always the best.

We love to see the ideal amount of text in our designs. However it is important to keep the imperfect lengths of text in mind throughout the design process. This will help prevent bigger issues during the later stages which take more time and effort to correct.

Running is my Muse

Every time I go for a run in the morning I get nervous. Thoughts rush through my mind. How will my run go? Maybe I shouldn’t run and go to work early instead since I have a lot to do. Still I push myself out the door.

As I start running, I start tackling each thought that is on my mind. Sometimes it is a challenging design problem I need to solve. Other times I’m organizing my tasks for the day. Running gives me the opportunity to spend time thinking, solving problems and clearing my mind.

As I cool down after the run I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
Running helps me clear my thoughts, organize my day and help me solve any challenges I face.

Timeboxing for results

When I first tried out time boxing while sketching I panicked. Time boxing is allowing yourself a set amount of time to perform a task. How could I possibly be creative with tight time restrictions? Surprisingly, knowing that I only had a set time to deliver the sketches it helped me focus. It kept me from getting side tracked. Going through the exercise and seeing the amount for sketches I was able to come up with made me feel great and completely changed my mind about time boxing for results.

Want to learn more about time boxing? Here are some websites that go into the process in more detail:

Timeboxing (Wikipedia)

Timeboxing - Zurb

15 Time Boxing Strategies to Get Things Done

Personal Projects

Client work might not be fulfilling enough for some. This is where Personal Projects can be a life saver or as James Victore puts it, work that feeds your soul. These side projects can help challenge you and be very satisfying at the same time. You don’t need anyone’s approval and no one can tell you to change it.

It is vital to keep your creativity flowing on a daily basis. Whether it is an app idea or a solution to a real world problem, you should start a personal project as soon as you can to help you improve and hone your skills. 

Have a personal idea you are working on? Let me know