How 10+ Years of Crocheting Has Made Me a Better UX/UI Designer
I don’t remember what exactly inspired me to start crocheting, but I do remember going to buy my first few skeins of yarn and a couple hooks. With YouTube as my guide, I started my first piece. It was a scarf for my then-boyfriend (now husband). It was way too long, wiggly at the edges, and it completely unraveled within a few months, but none of that diminished the pride I felt after finishing that piece. I haven’t stopped crocheting since.
While crochet and UX/UI design don’t seem to have much in common on the surface, I have come to realize just how much I have learned from crochet that applies to design.
Here are 5 skills I developed as a crocheter that directly translate to my work as a UX/UI designer.
1. User-Centered Design
User-Centered Design (UCD) is a process and philosophy that focuses all design decisions on the end user. UCD processes and methodologies vary, but they all:
- seek to specify the context in which a user will interact with a product;
- understand the specific requirements and user goals that must be met to make the product successful;
- create design solutions that speak to these requirements and goals, and;
- evaluate, test, and iterate upon those designs.
Most of what I crochet is gifts for others. Though I am much faster than when I started 10 years ago, crochet is an exceedingly time-intensive hobby. I probably spent 40 or 50 hours on my last project, a set of 10 chair covers for my in-laws’ dining room. When you spend so much time creating the project (and so much money on yarn), you want to make sure it is actually going to fit the needs, style, and lifestyle of the recipient so that they will use it. This continual focus on the recipient throughout the crochet design process helps me keep UCD top of mind when working on UX/UI projects.
2. Working With Constraints
There are always constraints in design. In crochet, these are typically recipient preferences like style, color palette, and acceptable fiber types (Are they allergic to wool? Hate anything synthetic?). You also need to factor in your budget, the availability of materials, and the time you can spend on the project.
Constraints are actually exciting to work with because they encourage creative problem solving and remind you to keep the focus on the end user/recipient of the project.
In fact, I sometimes introduce constraints on other personal creative projects, like selecting only three colors for an illustration or lettering piece. This forces me to get more creative and push myself out of my usual patterns and comfort zone.
3. Balancing Detail with Creativity
In both crochet and UX/UI design, there is a delicate balance between playfulness and detail. For the crocheted chair covers, precision and consistency were crucial. The pieces all needed to be the same size and shape, and have consistent stitching and finishing to ensure they looked like a matching set. Garment making also requires exactness.
On the contrary, a few years ago I designed a flower garland for a friend of mine. Leaning into the organic and imperfect nature of vines and flowers, each leaf and flower were all a little different.
In UX/UI design, it’s essential to know when to play and when to obsess over the details. Both have their place, and both are equally important.
Creating mood boards and style tiles is a wonderful opportunity to explore ideas and get creative. When designing the mockups for a new product, you have to be focused on details to ensure precision and consistency across the project.
4. Importance of Texture and Dimension
Fiber artists think a lot about texture. The type of fiber used, the weight of the yarn, and the combination of stitches that make up a piece all contribute to its texture. It is one of my favorite aspects of crochet and has given me an appreciation of texture in all art forms.
In UX/UI design, texture and depth are critical. This can be seen in the quick evolution from Flat Design to Flat Design 2.0: digital design without depth did not work. Skeuomorphism adds dimension and creates more intuitive and usable digital products. Shadows, gradients, and layering elements all provide a level of depth to digital design that makes these products feel more real.
5. Color Play
I LOVE color. Choosing colors is my favorite part of any artistic project, analog or digital. When selecting the color for a crochet piece, I am often constrained by what colors are available in the specific yarn required for the project. I also have to consider how the piece will exist in the world:
- What is its context or environment going to be (garment, houseware, decor, etc.)?
- What is the mood of this particular piece?
- What do I want the piece to communicate?
These are all questions I also ask myself when choosing colors for a design project or a brand’s color story. With digital design, it can be even harder to select a color palette because you have a seemingly limitless number of colors to choose from. Coming back to these questions can help guide you to an appropriate color palette for your project.
Having a creative hobby outside of my creative career indubitably makes me a better designer. Crochet might not appeal to you; how about drawing, painting, sculpting, jewelry making, cooking, or woodworking? There are so many ways to get creative! Investing in a creative hobby can help push you outside of your comfort zone and bring a fresh perspective to your daily work.