7 lessons our mothers taught us about design

We all owe a lot to our mothers—including some key lessons about design.

John Moore Williams
May 9, 2016

With care, compassion, and only occasionally grinding teeth, our mothers teach us so, so much. From how to make a grilled cheese sandwich to how to dress without embarrassing ourselves (and others) to how to care for others ourselves, we owe dear ole mom a lot.

Including some key elements of what we know about design.

And while most moms don't intentionally teach us anything about design, they teach us so much that they can’t help but impart some valuable design lessons, even if only by accident.

So with that in mind, I asked the Webflow team and community one simple question:

What did your mom teach you about design?

Here’s what our moms taught us.

1. Go with your gut

My mom taught me to go with my gut. That details can get in the way of the bigger picture and sometimes it's better to just keep the momentum moving forward. 

–Mat Vogels

2. Language matters

My mom taught me one essential lesson that shapes how I write content, which I think of as simply a different form of design:

Language matters. My mother cared deeply about practical and efficient communication. In fact, she was the first person to teach me that cutting unnecessary language—especially empty, idiomatic phrases—helps you be clearer and more effective in writing. The one that really ground her gears was people’s constant use of 'these ones'—as in, 'Which donuts do you want?' 'These ones.' She was always telling me: 'It’s just these, John. You want these donuts.'

–John Moore Williams

3. People are perceptive

Everyone notices, everything counts

–Will Wong

4. Everything unnecessary must go

Do you really need that?

–Waldo Broodryk

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5. The web has an ugly past—and that's okay

My Mom used to tell me about how websites used to look when the Internet first started to surface. She told me about how all websites had colored backgrounds, flashing images and were just plain terrible and that that was fine. It was something new and everyone wanted to play with it which meant people went crazy with their sites. People created websites simply for the sake of being able to say they have a website.

–Alexander Trapp

6. Anyone can help improve your UX

My mom acts as my free user tester. Although my mom is not the best design wise, that makes it even more perfect because not all people are creatives, especially people who go on the Internet. There are all types of people on the internet. And a lot are just like my mom, and therefore I could use her skills as an advantage to improve the UX of the site.

–Vladimir Vitaliyevich Radchenko

7. Creativity comes in myriad forms

The other day my mom told me I didn't get my creativity from her. I must have got it from my father and lots of others around the family. She told me she doesn't have any of that. I told her thats not true. 'But i can't even draw a sticky man,' she said. But that’s not about being creative. Being creative, it's about doing stuff. 'Look at your garden,' I said, 'it's beautiful. You could have chosen to just sit in your sofa watching TV but you choose to work in your garden making it pretty. That's being creative.'

–Jörn Klawan

John Moore Williams

Hi! I'm John Moore Williams, senior UX writer at Google, and proud Webflow alum. Nice to meet ya. Follow me @JohnAMWill.

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