I usually ask folks when and how they got into programming… However, you started by designing iOS apps, so when did that start? Did you got into design specifically to design iOS apps?
My work on designing apps began in 2014, helping my friend Ish [Ish ShaBazz]. It started out small, designing some consistent icons for one of his apps, and over the years that gradually led to working on our own apps together. At first, I didn't know much about designing apps. I came from a visual-arts background with an interest in design. Ish mentored me and pointed me in the direction of lots of useful resources.
How did you meet Ish if I may ask? Since you are both form different continents. Are any of those resources mentioned still available/relevant so others could check them out?
I got my first iPhone in 2011 and downloaded apps for different areas of my life. One of those apps was Dream Journal, an app for recording your dreams. I sent some feedback via email with some screenshots and detailed notes in a PDF attachment. Ish was the developer. He could have felt confronted but actually was grateful for my feedback. We kept in touch and that's how I began working with him later.
Some resources Ish guided me towards included Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, Google’s Material Design spec, Design+Code, and a guide by Jeremy Olson on designing and marketing apps.
We work together remotely and met in person for the first time at WWDC in 2017.
That’s really a nice story. How does your app design work looks like these days? It is your main job?
These days, I am working on my own apps from home and currently redesigning Capsicum. I have been applying for work at the same time to help pay my bills. I would love to design apps full-time in the future.
How's been programming and learning iOS so far? I think you are using SwiftUI for your apps?
I’ve made a few attempts to learn SwiftUI, but I’ve had trouble keeping it up. At the moment, I am focusing on my design work and some other priorities in my life. I am open to getting back to it when things are a little calmer. At the moment, I work best on the design and Ish does the development. Capsicum is being rewritten in SwiftUI right now.
I see. I am curious how do you approach designing new apps or re-design? Do you have a particular system that you follow? Do you for example start by defining some base color theme or some common controls?
The first step I do on a new project or a redesign is sketch some ideas. I use Linea Sketch on my iPad for that. After a discussion with Ish, I get working in Sketch for Mac to make some more polished mockups. In some cases, I am able to get to work straight away in Sketch if I have a clear enough idea in my head and then I keep iterating from there.
With my app Capsicum, we already have some defined colours and styles but I am refining that some more and working on building and documenting a new design system.
How would you explain "design system" to non-designers? Should developers try to create design systems for all their apps?
I am not an expert in design systems, but I would describe one as a central place for documenting the styles and components in your app. It can be quite simple and grow as your needs expand. I've gotten away with a lot of things being in my head or scattered across my Sketch document for years, but I am wanting to move into better organisation. I am experimenting using GitHub Wiki for documenting my design. My advice to developers would be to start small. If you are updating your design, when you create something new, like a button for example, spend some time documenting it somewhere.
Do you think there is any sort of "talent" involved in design? I sometimes hear from people that design cannot be learned if you don't have like an innate sense for it.
I think design can be a bit of both... a skill that is learnt and an innate talent or propensity towards it. I’ve been drawn to art and creativity from a young age but I have to sharpen my skills by applying them too. With that being said, I think all you need is sufficient motivation. The same goes for any career. If you put too much emphasis on “but I don’t have the talent” you’ll miss out on developing the skill. Anything can be learnt if the subject is willing.
Yeah I think this makes sense. I don't consider myself a designer but I think the stuff I "design" looks at least OK. But sometimes I get really stuck either having no idea how new feature/screen should even look like or I have design that I know doesn't work but dunno how to make it better. Do you have any advice for these cases?
Working with someone else and sharing your designs with them can be really beneficial to get some feedback. In the case you work alone, tap into a community. Whether that be on Slack or Twitter or somewhere else, share what you’re doing and ask for feedback. If that seems too scary, maybe ask a family member or friend. Alternatively, you can beta test and get some feedback that way. There’re also courses you can do to get better. Like Refactoring UI.
Refactoring UI is wonderful book. I think I have read it at least twice and reference it all the time. Do you have other similar recommendations? 🙂
Yes, anything from Design+Code is also great.
Cool, will check it out. And now my favorite question.
You have a magic wand and can change one thing about iOS development. What?
If I had a magic wand and could change one thing about iOS development, I would remove any barrier to entry. There would be even more resources to make it easier for beginners.
Do you see Apple device prices as one of the barriers?
For sure. Affording an expensive Mac is not easy for many. It took me a long time to save for my first MacBook.
To move from design and apps… What do you do to relax?
I like to watch Netflix, Disney+, or Binge (an Australian streaming service). I also like going on Instagram and Twitter… probably too much. 🙈
Thanks so much for taking the time! Do you want to give someone or something a shoutout?
Sure! I would like to give a shoutout to my friend, @ishabazz who has been a great mentor and co-worker. Without his support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I would also like to shout out @dbuchanandev who has been a great friend and generously reached out and offered to help if I ever got stuck with learning to code. He provided some very detailed examples to help answer some of my questions. He is an up-and-coming developer to watch.
Another great person to watch is @yannicklu, who is a very talented app-icon designer who really inspires me!