A few weeks ago Paul Adams, head of product design at Intercom, wrote a penetrating piece called the Dribbblisation of Design that struck a nerve with both the Dribbble community and the UX community, which polarized designers into a hotbed of comments (93 at the time of this blog) and retorting blogs.
Although I believe Paul made some extremely great points, he took it a bit far for my taste when he suggested that the aggregated results of Dribbble were moving our craft backward, questioning what the community on Dribbble values. He claims that too much creative work is aligned with winning awards than with primary business objectives.
Wow. That’s a lot to swallow. The problem with Paul’s blog is that it contains two arguments rolled up into one jumbled mess where a side of me completely agrees with him, but the other side of me screams “Whoa!”
His take comes off leaving me feeling as though he has an axe to grind with the makers of Dribbble, or maybe he never got an invite to join the “Dribbble family” or perhaps an ex-something of his shares a lot of work on Dribbble, I dunno. Whatever it may be, it just seems too personal and targeted toward one particular design community.
On the other hand, if you separate “Dribbble” from his argument, I wholeheartedly agree with his points about design needing to serve a purpose when looking at design through the lens of product design. That’s not to suggest that designs shared on Dribbble, which he so steadfastly attacked, do not serve that purpose, it’s just that Dribbble’s intention is not to depict a “case study” of the process and work that went into said finished product.
Paul seems to want Dribbble to serve as some kind of job aid, which it isn’t. Dribbble is a show and tell for designers as well as a source of inspiration for anyone who stops by to visit.
What Paul wants to see more than the finished designs themselves is the work that went into it. Great, but I would never diminish the extremely talented people in this industry or the Dribbble community as mere “stylists” as he does, just because I’m not privied to the behind the scenes work of the finished product. It’s not like they’re applying for a job. Think of Dribbble as a peer review, not a resume. That’s where Paul gets it wrong.
I understand Paul’s point, but if you agree with him (which I don’t), you could make the same argument against a number of other sites out there such as one of my favorites, Codepen.io. There’s a lot of really cool stuff on there that in and of itself doesn’t tell you what business problem it’s solving, but I don’t go into it expecting it to do that, so there’s no disappointment from my perspective. Again, these venues aren’t necessarily designed to be case studies, although if done right, a reference to a finished product on a site such as Dribbble could open the door to a more meaningful discussion about the who, what, when, and how of it, but that’s best left for a 1-1 private discussion. Not eveyone wants the whole world, or more precisely their competition, to know all of those intimate details driving the design.
So in summary, I get what Paul is saying. To do something just because it’s cool without consideration of how it solves a problem isn’t very useful until someone else comes along and finds a use for it in the big picture. But to allege Dribbble is setting our craft backward is where we completely disagree.
Shout outs to the following designers’ screenshots used in the feature image of this post (disclaimer: I have no affiliation with these designers nor have I ever spoken to them at the time of submitting this blog):
- Daniel Marian (Workout Tracking)
- Josh Hemsley (Kreyos Sports Mode)
- Tiberiu Neamu (Workout Buddy)
- Patrick Cabral (Interval Timer for Workout)
- Brently Broughton (Nike Plus Workout Summary)
- Grayden Poper (Gym App Concept)
- Blake Simkins (Benchmark Feed)
- David Kovalev (GymVisits Home)
- Daniel Marian (Charting your Progress)
- Minitheory (True Fitness App)