Tricks for Designers on How to Read More (and Why It's So Important)


By Sagi Shrieber, Designer & Co-Founder of Hacking UI


Jun 14, 2016


Reading relevant articles in my field is what keeps me relevant in this rapidly changing industry.


Reading enables us to understand and apply new trends, to become exposed to new technologies and learn about tools that will streamline or enhance our workflow, among other things.


If you don’t read, or pursue other ways to stay informed, you will find that yourself on a plateau, or worse, left behind. The work you are able to produce is always affected by your cumulation of knowledge.


Knowledge is gained through continuous discovery and consumption of relevant content from your field,  along with experimentation and exploration of the methods you read about in your day to day work.


So, IMO, one of the most important parts of our job as designers is simply staying up to date.


Design articles meme


As designer and co-founder of Hacking UI - a blog and an awesome newsletter for designers composed of my personal reading list - for the past 4 years, I’ve been curating (on a weekly basis) only a small bunch of articles out of a sea of super interesting and relevant content. Therefore, throughout time, I developed techniques to help me consume content in a more effective manner.


In this article, I’ll share both how and why it’s so important to read and stay up to date.


Ready? Let’s go!


Looking Isn’t Enough. You Need to Read.


Reading allows us to understand trends in the industry. Not limited to the latest news on how sidebar navigation is in vogue or duotone color schemes, trends also appear in the shape of thought leadership pieces on changes that may affect the designer’s role over time. This type of knowledge is important and might just help you in how to steer your career.


While scanning an awards site is great for inspiration, when it comes to actually creating something for a client, you need the practical how-to. Reading not only exposes us to new technologies and UX design patterns but it gives us the power to actually implement these concepts in our design.


Sometimes, this exposure even has the power to make the penny drop for us, regarding the direction in which we want to take our career. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone, many designers shifted their career toward mobile platform-oriented design work. There’s no good or bad here. The mere fact that we, as designers, can specialize in so many different mediums because of advances in technology is fun. It leaves us with an increasingly open career path in whichever direction we choose to proceed at any given time.


Without reading, however, we won’t be able to learn about these advances and the opportunities they present in time to catch the market’s momentum. Meaning, our advantage over others competing for the same positions or clients is already lost if we’re ‘late for the party’.


Reading about others’ experiences is another way to learn and come up with ideas regarding possible courses of action that can serve us in our own work. I’m talking about communication and project management with our colleagues and about design workflows at large. By reading, we can learn from others’ processes and improve our own work methodology. That’s a huge value that we can bring to the table in any given job. It makes us innovators in our own workspace and I can’t stress enough on the value that better processes and methodologies can create for us in our day-to-day work life.


Learning about new tools is one of the most deeply impactful ways that reading affects my quality of work. For example, the world has long since seen the massive move towards Sketch (evidenced by the  designer tools survey done a few months prior to this article, by Khoi Vinh).


But, in little Israel, I’m only now beginning to receive requests to consult with design teams in companies on the transfer from PhotoShop to Sketch. How is this even possible that here in Israel we’re THAT late to the Sketch game? It’s because we are not at all aligned with the rest of the world. And what’s the problem with that you ask?


Well, in my opinion, this means that designers in Israel have been working at a slower pace and less effectively since Sketch 3 came out two years ago. Two years! I wonder how the amount of design deliverables would have differed had Sketch caught fire here when it did in the rest of the world.


Reading also enables us to follow and directly communicate with thought leaders in our field. This channel of interaction has to power to stimulate discussion and the realization of new information on all of the above. Moreover, it allows us access to to really interesting people and unique ideas or systems that we would otherwise not be exposed to, let alone communicate with.


So, just as a recap, reading enables us to:

  • Identify and practically implement new trends

  • Expose us to new technologies and design concepts

  • Learn from others’ experiences applying this knowledge to our own reality

  • Find new tools to help streamline our workflow

  • Communicate and interact directly with the purveyors of new ideas and design concepts


How to Always Stay Up-to-Date



Be Selective


There’s a lot of noise on the internet. It’s easy to get turned off by the vast number of blogs, people and newsletters. The best way to beat this is by being selective and making sure that there’s a value-added from the places you are reading. Think about that newsletter you received and simply deleted before opening or that person you followed on twitter who tweets useless information, every hour, on the hour. You need to create an environment that’ll enable you to want to read and being selective is the first step.


Identify some of your favorite blogs to read about the industry and bookmark them. Choose an extension like Panda or Muzli that will aggregate articles for your and filter based on what you want to see. Sign up to a newsletter and decide after a few emails whether to keep your subscription intact. Same goes for Twitter - if you don’t see things you like or are helpful, unfollow. Be strategic. Be selective. But most importantly, set yourself up for success.


Use the Right Tools

Pocket App 

I (personally) can’t find much time to read articles during work. Maybe every now and then, but there are too many articles to take in anyways. During the evenings and on the weekends I’m with my family and don’t have the proper concentration or time to read professional long-form articles.


Without time to sit down and read, I found myself listening more and more to podcasts. It’s a great way to hear about new techniques and ideas directly from thought leaders in the industry. Not to mention it’s a great way to consume information on the run.


But, I never want to give up reading the many great articles that people put into text. Therefore, I found a great solution. I have an app called Pocket.


For those of you who don’t know, Pocket is an app that lets you bookmark any article to read at a later point in time. Fortunately enough for me it has a text-to-speech feature - something most users still don’t seem to know! By saving articles for later, not only can you read at a time most suitable to you, but you essentially have a virtual learning library where you can easily refer back for ideas.


Here’s my workflow when it comes to finding new articles:


  • I find an article and add it to Pocket. Whether I’m on my phone or my computer, Pocket has its add-ons for any possible platform. So, no matter what device or OS you’re using, you’ll be able to save any webpage with the simple click of a button.
  • When I have time, I open Pocket (I’ll expand on this “when I have time” part a bit later on)
  • I choose an article from the list and click to open it in the app. Once inside the article page I click the options menu and then I choose the Text To Speech option (TTS).
  • I finish one article, mark it as done (by clicking the checkmark icon) and continue on to the next one. If I’m on my electric scooter I stop on the side for a second to do that. If I’m driving, I either pull over when I can, or wait until I’m at a red light to do it.


Disclaimer: This workflow (obviously) does not work with tutorials or articles that have a lot of imagery. I try to zap through those quickly when I find the time in down time at work.


And what about when it comes to newsletters with tons of links?


“When you send your newsletter with all the articles, there’s no way I’m going to enter each and every link on my iPhone and manually add each one to Pocket!”


Hacking UI Newsletter


Aha! I’m happy you asked! Sometimes I actually do open emails that are full of links, but I don’t really have time to add them all one by one to Pocket. What I do then is just feed all of the links that strike me as interesting directly into my iPhone browser’s reading list (I’m sure there’s a parallel on Android), by tapping and holding down each link (which opens an options menu) and selecting “add to reading list.”


After doing so, I have 2 options:

  1. What I used to do most of the time: When I had time, I would open the Safari browser on my iPhone and there I chose the reading list (book icon, as of the time of writing this article), open each link and add it to Pocket.
  2. What I do for the past couple of weeks: I sync my iOS Reading list with my Pocket. This is a whole other tutorial, something for another time.


This whole process sounds amusing, but I’m sure you can relate to my frustration of opening each link separately from any email app on an iPhone.


Develop a Habit of Consuming Content


If you haven’t had the opportunity to read much until now, I would recommend doing it slowly, in stages. I wouldn’t pile the articles on, but rather start with three articles a week. From there, you can slowly increase the amount when you see it’s flowing naturally.


If you prefer to read the articles over listening to them, I’d suggest setting your expectations with your partner and friends, and clear a few hours during the weekend for that purpose. Setting expectations is everything and I wrote about that as well.


Find the ‘Right’ Time


I’m sure you must be just as buy as I am, if not more. That’s why it is important to find the right time to read these articles.


I, personally, have time when I walk my dog, when I’m on my way to work on my electric scooter and on the train or when I’m driving the car and also when I’m making dinner (and notice I really don’t refer to it as cooking as I lack any skill of that manner). Even if I’m running errands, like going to the grocery store or pharmacy, or if I’m by myself just doing a “no-brainer” task I use the time to learn and gain more knowledge.


Bonus - Listen to Podcasts


This is a topic for a whole new article, but as I mentioned before, listening to podcasts is another excellent way to stay relevant and consume the relevant content in the industry (not to mention consume content, hands-free!)


There are quite a few excellent podcasts for designers and these are a few of my favorites:

  • Design Details: amazing podcast for designers (graphic and web) about the people who design our favorite products, brought to you by Brian Lovin and Bryn Jackson.
  • HackingUI: my podcast :) Out first season is all about scaling a design team and design management. I interview world class design managers from respectable companies about their workflows and tips on management and product design. This season is nearing its end, and soon you’ll hear David and me talking a lot about entrepreneurship, blogging, productivity and designing our own products.
  • Mac Power Users: kind of what it sounds like - learning to get the most out of your device(s). I’m a productivity geek and this is a great way to learn how to get more productive in your work with your mac & apple devices.
  • The Tim Ferris Show: from the guy that brought us the 4-Hour Workweek, Time deconstructs world-class performers to understand tool, tactics and tricks for listeners to use in their everyday life


Itunes podcasts




This is a topic for a whole new article, but as I mentioned before,  listening to podcasts is another excellent way to stay relevant and consume the relevant content in the industry (not to mention consume content, hands-free!)


That’s it for now, I’m here if you have any questions.


Enjoy your reading!




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Sagi is a designer, writer & entrepreneur. After leading the design efforts at Similarweb as Director of Design for almost 3 years, Sagi is now chasing his dream as co-founder of product design magazine - Hacking UI. Sagi is also the founder of popular Israeli design blog Pixel Perfect Magazine, and a UX mentor for startups at Google Campus TLV.


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