10 TIPS TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL DESIGNER
My advice to aspiring designers, narrowed down into 10 steps. Also known as “what I wish I could have told myself 6 years ago when I started out.”
1. CREATE AN ONLINE PRESENCE.
This may sound like a given, but these days you have to have an online platform to express yourself and maintain a constant dialogue with other people interested in your work. And we’re not just talking about a Twitter/Instagram account or Facebook page. Prospective employers will expect you to have either your own blog or website, or to use an online portfolio service like Behance or CarbonMade. While portfolio websites are great (and most of the time, they’re free and easy to use), a website is the most professional way to go about presenting yourself. Whether you create a specific name for your design business, or just use your name as your brand, having a .com domain makes you stand out above the rest. Plus, with hosting websites like WordPress, GoDaddy, Wix, and SquareSpace – it’s easy to build a website, even if you don’t have knowledge of coding.
2. GIVE YOURSELF PROJECTS.
This is the best way you can better yourself as a designer, especially starting out! When you’re trying to build your skills and your client base, it can be easy to get discouraged with lack of experience and feeling as though your work isn’t up to par in comparison to other designers. Instead of comparing yourself or not feeling strong enough in the field, channel that energy into becoming as good, or even better, than the designers you admire. You’re in this field because you are creative, so whether it’s giving yourself a faux company to design a logo for, creating a CD cover for your favorite band, or re-creating a magazine article layout – the possibilities are endless. Not only is this good for the creative flow, but you can polish your skills on using the software and try new techniques for future use. The other great thing about giving yourself these projects is they can be completely your own terms on what and how you want to create them. And they can be added to your portfolio to show potential clients and employers more of the type of work you want to do professionally.
3. NETWORK LIKE CRAZY.
I can’t stress this one enough. One of the most unique and awesome things about the design industry is being able to work WITH ANYONE in the world FROM ANYWHERE in the world, thanks to technology. You aren’t limited to your city limits. The world is full of projects that need to be put into action and by putting yourself out there, you can make some incredible connections. Have a dream of working for a person or company you admire? Sending genuine short emails or social media notes to people who you admire can lead to many opportunities. You may be just what they are looking for to commission a project that matches your skill set.
4. GO TO A DESIGN CONFERENCE.
If you are able to travel and afford the cost, I highly recommend the annual AIGA Design Conference or one of the more well known events hosted by the largest design organizations. These events are extremely inspiring and can enrich your experience and growth as a designer and person. However, there are other ways to benefit by joining your local branch of AIGA to interact with like-minded people. It’s important to soak up all the possible knowledge and advice on offer; to get noticed and respected by colleagues.
5. GO ABOVE AND BEYOND.
Taking care of your clients and going the extra mile goes a long way. If someone hires you for a design project, throw in something extra at no charge. A client may not have requested something in particular, but it could really help them out. For example, creating a business card for a company just starting out? Throw in an advertisement they can post on social media or use in local marketing. Designing a printed flyer for an event? Make an Instagram-friendly version to help reach other audiences. Another tip is to offer printing services. As a designer, it’s easy to sign up and be granted access to wholesale printing websites that provide a higher quality print than office supply stores or websites the general public can use. This helps your clients not have to worry about getting the design printed and have to know the technical terms of print or file resolution, and gets them an end result that matches the quality of design. In conclusion, word of mouth is the most important tool you have. Nothing can help you or hurt you more than rumors and compliments spread by those for whom you have done work before.
6. STAY INSPIRED.
When you go places, pay attention to new trends and the designs that surround you. Collect successful design pieces that you find at restaurants, at the mall, or anywhere you go just to relax. Always be on the lookout for creative inspiration. Referring back to any of these can be very helpful when you’re in a creative rut. Also, don’t be afraid to back away from the computer in the middle of a project. Often coming back to a project after going outside or taking your mind off it produces the best results.
7. ALWAYS BE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
Having a specific style is more harmful in the design industry than is lead on. Be versatile to many different styles because it’s very rare that you will encounter any two clients who want the same sort of design. How will a designer ever grow or learn if they’re never pushed beyond their limits? Fear can get the best of us. It can cripple us. Get out of your comfort zone, learn, and then just try. Take advantage of the vast knowledge that is out there and don’t let fear stop you from creating amazing things.
8. LEARN HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM AND NOT BE AFRAID TO SAY “NO”.
Possibly the toughest thing for any designer, but everyone has to deal with criticism. As a designer, you have to be good at taking direction to improve your work and build on communication. It’s an evolving process and often produces positives in the end. Just because one person doesn’t like a piece of work you’ve created doesn’t mean it isn’t a masterpiece or that someone else may not think it’s great. Accept that not all creative collaborations are meant to be. It’s okay to say no to a client if you aren’t a right fit to work together. It’s also okay to make suggestions against your client’s wishes, but must be done politely and professionally. The client doesn’t have the eye for successful design, that’s why they hired you. For example, if a client wants to use a font or element in a design that is more harmful or doesn’t flow with the design concept, suggestions from a designer’s perspective should be expressed in a way that portrays as being helpful so that clients don’t take it as insulting their personal ideas.
9. HAVE PASSION.
More than anything, successful graphic designers are genuinely passionate about what they do. Being creative excites them, and they love nothing better than developing designs that impress and amaze their clients. This natural passion, motivation, and enthusiasm for their work helps them focus on it more intently, and it gives them the drive that they need to consistently strive for improvements. Design should be a lifestyle choice, not just a career choice. Not only does this provide a scenario where it doesn’t feel like “work” every day, but greatly increases being successful in the field.
10. BE NICE AND BE HUMBLE.
V&C_BLOGTHUMBNAILSDesign is a business where making human connections is vital to growth, regardless of whether it is a client relationship or just a casual conversation. Being genuinely friendly and interested will hands-down help you to make prospect and repeating clients.