How Design Principles Can Improve Your Coding Projects + 10 free Design tools

Publication date: April 27, 2023

Design principles aren’t just for designers. Incorporating good design practices into your coding projects can improve user experience, create a strong visual identity, and help you solve problems from a new perspective. In this article, we explore five ways that design can improve your coding projects and look at some free design tools that you can use. Are you a coder looking to take your coding to the next level? …or perhaps a teacher wanting to create engaging and visually appealing teaching materials? If so, then read on for some top tips! 

Design is not just for designers 

As part of EU Code Week, both students and teachers can use graphic design in various ways as a tool to improve coding. Here are a few examples: 

  • User interface design: Good design principles can be applied to creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for software and web applications. This can help students to understand how user interface design affects the user experience and how to implement design principles in their coding projects.
  • Visualisation of data: Visualising data using charts, graphs, and infographics can help make complex information more understandable and accessible to users. By incorporating design principles into data visualisation, students can improve the clarity and effectiveness of their coding projects.
  • Branding and identity design: Creating a cohesive visual identity for a software product or web application can help to establish brand recognition and create a positive user experience. By incorporating design principles into branding and identity design, students can learn how to create a strong visual presence for their coding projects.
  • Design thinking: Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that emphasises empathy, creativity, and collaboration. By incorporating design thinking into coding projects, students can learn how to approach coding problems from a design perspective and create solutions that are user-centred and effective.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration between designers and developers can help to create better products and web applications. By working together, designers and developers can leverage each other’s strengths and create projects that are both visually appealing and functional.

By incorporating design principles into coding projects, students can learn how to create more successful and user-friendly software and web applications. Additionally, teachers can use design principles to create engaging and visually appealing teaching materials, which can help to improve student engagement and understanding of coding concepts. 

Free design tools that you can use

  • Canva: Canva is a popular graphic design tool that offers a variety of templates, images, and design elements to create graphics for social media, presentations, posters, and more. 
  • GIMP: GIMP is a free and open-source image editing software which provides a range of features such as layers, masks, filters, and more. 
  • Inkscape: Inkscape is a free vector graphics editor that offers a range of features such as text tools, object manipulation, and colour palettes. 
  • Krita: Krita is a free and open-source digital painting software that proposes a variety of brushes, colour palettes, and other features for creating illustrations and digital artwork. 
  • Blender: Blender is a free and open-source 3D modelling software that offers a range of features such as modelling, sculpting, animation, and more. 

Five free design tools that are compatible with coding

  • Figma: Figma is a cloud-based design tool that allows for real-time collaboration and offers a code inspector feature that enables developers to inspect and copy CSS properties directly from the design. 
  • Sketch: Sketch is a popular vector graphics editor that provides design resources such as templates, plugins, and integration with other tools to help designers and developers create responsive designs and share assets. 
  • Adobe XD: Adobe XD is a user experience design tool that is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. It offers features such as design specs and code snippets, which allow designers and developers to share assets and collaborate more easily. 
  • InVision Studio: InVision Studio is a versatile design tool that allows designers to create interactive designs and prototypes. It offers features such as design-to-code, which converts designs into code for faster development. 
  • Gravit Designer: Gravit Designer is a vector design tool that provides tools for designing logos, graphics, and interfaces. It has a code export feature that allows developers to extract the CSS properties of an object or selection. 

Keep in mind that while these tools are compatible with coding, they are primarily design tools and may not offer the same level of functionality as dedicated coding tools. 

As we celebrate International Design Day on April 27, it’s important to reflect on the value of design and its ability to bring about positive change in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned coder or just starting out, incorporating design principles into your projects can greatly enhance their effectiveness and visual appeal. For those of you looking to use design to engage young students in coding, there are countless resources and tools available to help bring your ideas to life. So, let’s take this opportunity to explore the intersection of design and coding, and find new ways to harness their combined power for greater creativity.