Learning design: resources for non-designers

Every now and then, a programmer, product manager, or marketing person will ask me how they can “learn design”.

It’s understandable that they think I can help. The problem is, I learned the principles of visual design through osmosis, growing up in a household with two graphic designers as parents. I learned front-end web development through a decade of experimentation, back when “web 2.0” was just becoming a thing. And I learned user research and UX design on the job, first at ScraperWiki, then at mySociety.

But I appreciate “spend 20 years doing it” isn’t a very useful answer to people asking me how they learn. So here’s a list of resources that might actually help. Some of them I’ve used myself, but most are just resources I’ve seen recommended by people I trust. YMMV!

This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ll try to keep it up to date with new resources as I discover them. If you know of something that helped you learn design, and you think I should add it to this page, drop me a line on Twitter.

All-round guides

  • Hack Design – a free, 50-lesson, self-paced course for “hackers” learning design, that touches on everything from visual design principles, to UX research, UI design, and some basic front-end skills.
  • Ben Brignell’s archive of third party Design Principles – the guides that other organisations use to guide their product decisions, covering ethics, accessibility, performance, user research, and everything in between.

Visual design


There are a few foundational texts here, that are well worth your time, if you don’t mind a more theoretical introduction to the way designers think:

There’s a small cottage industry in Tumblr-like microblogs poking fun at poorly designed experiences online. These are two I follow in my RSS reader:

Modern web technologies

Things move fast here, so it’s hard to recommend specific resources!