Toptal Design Blog

The Toptal Design Blog is a hub for advanced design studies by professional designers in the Toptal network on all facets of digital design, ranging from detailed design tutorials to in-depth coverage of new design trends, techniques, and technologies.
Michael Abehsera
The Art of Stealing: How to Become a Master Designer

Many people believe that designers are unicorns, gifted or special in some way. They’re not. Truth is, anyone can become a great designer if they’re willing to put in years of hard work, experimentation, and failure. All it takes is a simple mindset shift. Instead of looking at other designers’ work with envy, think of it as the key to your success.

In fact, interactive design has a lot in common with the open source software community: You can master it by stealing and copying from the best of the best. Start by getting to know Dribbble’s rebound feature.

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Nick Vyhouski
Everything You Need to Know about UX Sketching

UX sketching is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of user-experience design. Sketching is a very efficient way of communicating design ideas while allowing designers to try out a multitude of options and iterate them before settling on one.

In this post, Toptal Freelance Designer Nick Vyhouski explains UX sketching step by step and outlines a range of tips and techniques used by leading designers.

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Jônatas Vieira
How Much Coding Should Designers Know?

Much of the digital design community is locked in debate over whether or not designers should code. Some are in favor of seeking out the unicorns who can design and code, while others claim they don’t exist, or just get in the way.

In this article, Toptal freelance designer Jônatas Vieira offers his own firsthand perspective on this issue. Can learning how to code elevate your career to the next level? Or would such skills go unused?

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Danielle Reid
Presenting Design Work: The Right Way

Designers spend much of their careers developing the ability to beautifully communicate the intentions of their products. Yet, some designers fail to direct these same skills towards the communication of their own work. The ability to present your design work is fundamental for any designer, as it is often the first step to landing a job with any new client or agency.

In this article, Toptal Director of Design Danielle Reid and Toptal Design Blog Editor Kent Mundle discuss what designers can do to present their work in the most effective ways. Give the products that you make some justice, and use these tips to effectively present your portfolio.

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Danielle Reid
Amazing Travel UIs

Check out a curated collection of beautiful and futuristic travel UIs created by different designers from around the world.

Some of the designs are captured from live products, some are still in development, and some are purely concepts designed to push the bounds of what is even considered possible.

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Kent Mundle
Alternative Housing Lifestyles for Remote Workers

An often mentioned virtue of remote work is the freedom for individuals to construct their lifestyles as they wish. However, much of contemporary society has not yet shifted to allow for the total freedom that many desire, especially when it comes to housing. Why should outdated housing standards prevent us from living in the way we want to live?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle surveys a group of housing alternatives that apply to several different types of remote workers. The digital nomad has different needs than the young professional or the working parent, and their housing options should reflect that.

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Luboš Volkov
Design In A Remote Setting: A Toptal Design Talk

Without an office manager, or shift supervisor to look over your shoulder, or set your schedule for you, design in a remote setting can be difficult for some to manage. As well, for those who use the freedom that remote work offers, how can one ensure to find a healthy balance between life, fun and of course work?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle discusses strategies for designing in a remote setting with Lubos Volkov, Toptal Lead Designer. Lubos explains the importance of good planning, a strong will, but also the ability to break the rules and get outside when the world calls you.

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Andrew Graunke
How CrunchBase Should Be Designed

Despite the widespread use of the start-up tracker CrunchBase, Toptal Freelance Designer Andrew Graunke believes that its site could use a redesign. Can the redesign transcend an aesthetic makeover, and improve user and business goals as well?

In this article, Andrew walks us through his thorough redesign and reorganization of the CrunchBase website. His process includes wireframes, design reviews, and a usability test.

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Aleksey Abramovsky
Produce DWGs Like It's 2016: Teigha For Architecture

Today, the notion of repetitively modeling or drawing the windows, doors, and walls of standardized buildings seems archaic, so why do it? If you want to handle DWG files and ACA objects programmatically, one of the best platform options is Teigha Architecture.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Alexey Abramovsky walks us through the DWG production of a small house to introduce us to the benefits of Teigha. Go from foundations to full render in this quick tutorial.

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Darko Stanimirović
Usability Past Its Breaking Point: A Toptal Design Talk

Should usability ever be sacrificed for design experimentation? What is there to be learned from products that challenge the expectations of users? Might portfolio projects be the ideal venue in which to push these boundaries?

In the first Toptal Design Talk, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle and freelance designer Darko Stanimirovic discuss these questions over the contentious online portfolio for the art studio, Ro-Lu.

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Ivo Gregurec
Tutorial: How To Create A Custom Icon Webfont

The possibility of embedding a custom font in an HTML website revolutionized the potential of web development and opened up many new possibilities for designers. The key advantage of custom fonts over sprite graphics is their superior load time, but that’s not the only benefit.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Ivo Gregurec explains how you can build your very own icon font, allowing you to create a consistently unique style, unified line weight, and pixel-perfect results.

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Goran Ramljak
When We Should Redesign: An Automotive Case Study

When is the best possible time for a company to conduct a website redesign? What needs to be done in a redesign to ensure another won’t be needed for a long time to come?

In this article, Freelance Designer Goran Ramljak walks us through his redesign case study, exposing key issues with the automotive digital space in the process.

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Kent Mundle
Home Smart Home: Domesticating the Internet of Things

The impending adoption of Smart Home technology is looming. What will this mean for domestic life as we know it? For as long as people have kept homes, the dwelling has been a refuge for isolation. With the security concerns surrounding Smart Home technology and the rise of the Internet of Things, has our concept of the home changed forever?

In this article, design editor Kent Mundle questions where Smart Home technology is now, how it relates to the history of home automation, and what might be next for the market.

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Alex Gurevich
Sketch vs. Photoshop: Is It Time To Switch From Photoshop To Sketch?

Sketch promises a faster workflow and greater ease-of-use than its counterparts. You can think of Sketch as Illustrator with some Photoshop stitched together, but that’s only part of the story. Many Adobe features that you don’t use 90 percent of the time have been stripped out, giving us a streamlined tool that is designed to quickly prototype everything from simple wireframes to complex mockups.

In this article, Toptal freelance designer Alex Gurevich takes a closer look at the Sketch vs. Photoshop dilemma, explaining which has the advantage from a variety of perspectives.

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Kent Mundle
What Is Strategic Design Thinking and How Can It Empower Designers?

Freelance designers often work on a project-to-project, short-term basis, a reality that sometimes limits the extent to which they can design products that have a major effect on the big picture. How can designers leverage their abilities to have a maximum impact on more significant projects?

Strategic Design Thinking questions the role of design as a discipline, suggesting that it can offer more than the crafting of products and artifacts. In this article, freelance designer Kent Mundle shows us how designers can better communicate their abilities and establish a vocabulary to increase the potential value of their projects for themselves and their clients.

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Luboš Volkov
2016 Design Trends: New Tools, More Automation, Full Stack Design

2016 design trends are an evolution and extension of existing design languages and patterns. We are not reinventing the wheel this year, so this leaves room for innovative designs based on familiar building blocks. However, while the underlying basics remain unchanged, designers will have to master new skills and employ new tools to keep up.

In this post, Toptal Lead Designer Lubos Volkov lists a number of design trends that are likely to mark 2016. These industry trends are not limited to visual appearance or the advent of new tools. Some of them could potentially redefine our understanding of what it means to be a designer.

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Kent Mundle
Design Principles: Introduction To Hierarchy

In this article, Freelance Designer Kent Mundle examines the basics of good design: hierarchy, shapes, sizes, and colors. The foundational rules of visual perception are critical for any graphic design, as they instruct how information with embedded meaning is conveyed as quickly as possible.

However, these rules were founded in print and have yet to be redefined for digital media. There has yet to be a sort of digital Bauhaus school to set these new principles. The rules of hierarchy and composition are not just dated, they break down in web interfaces.

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Danielle Reid
The World Is Our Interface: Design Beyond The Screen

Toptal Freelance Designer Danielle Reid presents a number of exciting technologies and various interfaces to interact with them, while taking a historical perspective on interactions with man-made objects that have evolved with us to where we are.

From typewriters to touchscreens and beyond, UI design is constantly evolving to improve user experience and boost productivity. Find out what the next generation of connected devices will bring to the table.

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Bojan Janjanin
Are All Trends Worth It? Top 5 Most Common UX Mistakes That Designers Make

Many modern web trends offer a lot of visual appeal and the temptation to follow them blindly is quite real. These trends are not always bad, but they can be dangerous if not implemented with caution. In this article, Toptal designer Bojan Janjanin discusses some of the most common UX mistakes and some insights on finding the balance between what looks nice and what is actually usable.

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Dror Liebenthal
Say Hello To Toptal Designers!

To date, Toptal has been known as a thriving network comprised of some of the best software developers in the world, and up until now, designer involvement at Toptal has been done on an informal basis. As we’ve expanded and evolved, we’ve always been acutely aware of the fact that the diversity of personalities, areas of expertise, and personal passions that come together from across the world at Toptal is one of the primary things that makes our community so strong. With this in mind, today we are extremely excited to announce the official launch of Toptal Designers.

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