Burnout on the rise among designers

Welcome back, this is the fourth edition of my weekly newsletter. I can’t believe a month has already passed since the first one! Last week I looked into wether good design taste can be taught. The conclusion? It’s hard to teach it to humans, I can’t imagine we’ll be able to teach it to AI anytime soon. This week we look into something darker—burnout. There are also 2 typography tips at the bottom so keep reading!

In this newsletter:
🔥 From burnout to balance: why are so many UX designers fatigued?
🌘 Unveiling the Dark Side of UX Design: Politics, Bureaucracy, and Managing Stakeholders for Success
📖 My Better Web Type book is on sale again for a limited time. Get it with 40% discount!

🔥 From burnout to balance: why are so many UX designers fatigued?
I burned out last year. It was bad. It was the reason why I stopped working on most of my side projects. I had to prioritise my job. It took a while but I managed to recover and I became productive at work again. Just when I felt I was finally back to being my old self, I got laid off. Burnout is awful, I remember the only thing that I looked forward to when I woke up was getting back to sleep in the evening. My life was completely joyless for a couple of months. Just like Chris Kernaghan in his blog post, I started noticing that a lot of other designers are burning out. I actually think that a lot of people are burning out as a consequence of the global pandemic, as well as massive layoffs, and this also includes designers.

Chris argues that designers have an additional problem that not all other roles have—the justification problem. They need to justify themselves and the focus on design to others. It still feels like design is an afterthought, a nice-to-have. Chris has three main recommendations for managing stress and burnout: communication, careful planning, and asking for help when needed. If you feel you’re burning out <<First Name>>, definitely read his blog post.

🌘 Unveiling the Dark Side of UX Design: Politics, Bureaucracy, and Managing Stakeholders for Success
The other blog post isn’t as much about burnout itself but I think it talks about a lot of things that can contribute towards designers burning out—politics and bureaucracy (bullshit, in short). Irisi Tole, the author of the blog post digs up some interesting data: 43% of UX professionals report encountering political issues that prevent them to create optimal user experiences. Holy shit! 43% is a lot! Imagine it like this, as a designer, you have a 50/50 chance that politics (khm, bullshit!) will prevent you to do your job properly.

It would be really interesting to compare this number to other roles that UX designers generally work with. For example, I know that software developers have to take some bullshit too, but is it that much? Anyway, Irisi presents the common politics problems and suggests how to navigate them: mainly communication, aligning design work to business goals, and being open and collaborative. I can speak about the importance of all three from my own experience. They do wonders to help you establish your position as a designer in a company. Read the full blog post here.

💡 Tips for improving your web typography on dark backgrounds
I wanted to share two quick tips from my book that will help you improve your typography when using it on dark background. Maybe you’re working on a dark mode for a website or something similar. There are 2 things that you can do to drastically improve how the type looks like:

  1. Change the font-smoothing to anti-aliasing in CSS
  2. Use a lighter font weight

Tip #1: Take a look at this example from my book. Which of the two examples on dark background would you say looks better? If you said the bottom one, you’d be wrong. It’s the anti-aliased one. The bottom one looks like the white colour is bleeding through the edges and into the background. It looks too strong and sloppy. The top one looks polished and crisp. 

Tip #2: Variable fonts are quite common these days and they’re great for cases like this one. If you’re putting some type on a dark background, use a lighter weight to make it visually better balanced. Especially as you compare it to the same type on a light background. Again, great for when switching from light to dark mode, or if you use type on dark and light backgrounds on your website. 

Liked these tips <<First Name>>? Well, these are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended 😊), with my book you can learn how to holistically design and code beautiful web typography—get my book with 40% discount!

That’s it for this Monday. Be awesome! 👋


💬 Do you enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or tell them to subscribe here.

P.S. From my personal news: the twins haven’t arrived yet. My wife is now scheduled for a C-section on Wednesday, I hope it all goes ok 🤞 Wish us luck!

Matej Latin

I’m a self-taught designer proving that you don’t need a design degree to make a career in design. I went from doing boring graphic design work to working for big tech companies as a Product Designer. I thrive in the grey area between design and web development and I wrote a book about web typography for designers and web developers.

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