I’ve been doing graphic design for a long time, and I’ve experienced what both freelance and employment have to offer. However even with my years of experience I’m still learning new things about being a designer, and after talking with others I’ve noticed a common trend in what makes up a designer. These aren’t all there is to it, but I personally believe these 6 things are important for any creative to continue what they do.
First of all, you have to be curious at all times. My curiosity for Photoshop is what got me where I am now, and it still spurs me on to find new things. It’s absolutely essential for designers to search out the latest trends, other designers, new technology, etc. The reality is that work isn’t always exciting, especially when it’s repetitive, so it’s our job to keep being curious, looking for inspiration and new skills whenever possible. At least twice a day I like to look at websites such as; Dribbble, Behance, or Awwwards, where I can see the best designs in one space.
Before anything else, we’re creatives. Whether it be through branding, photography, or web design we’re all expressing ourselves in a way that’s unique to us. As a designer it’s way too easy to stick ourselves in front of the computer screen all day without moving from the same spot. Not only is that detrimental to our health but it could also do more harm than good when we’re seeing things from one dimension. Don’t be scared to do something different, move away from the computer screen and get your hands dirty. Why not try your hand at hand lettering? Some people make a living from this skill, and I’ve you’ll soon realise that sometimes a digital font just doesn’t cut it creatively.
I was once told that “If you’re in this for the money, you’re in the wrong job.” As designers what drives us isn’t the money, it’s our love for what we do. Just like many other creatives out there we’re often under valued, and when things get tough we have only our love for what we do to drive us forward. Passion always combines with skill to create a great product. It’s what makes us not cut corners in what we do, but rather take the time to fine tune it until it’s perfect. This brings me on to the next point.
In the design field a project can last for months, even over a year depending on what you’re dealing with. A good designer has to have the patience to deal with drawn out projects and see them to completion from concept to delivery. I’ve had to learn to read through a brief a few times in order to get the full picture, and in order not to rush be honest about the time it will take to deliver a product.
The good thing about going to design school is that you learn to take constructive criticism from others without taking it personally. Clients won’t always like your design choices, so it’s good to develop a thick skin in order to take on board what they’re saying. Getting too attached to our work can set us up for a shock when we find out that it’s in fact not what the client is looking for. The other side to this is to have the confidence to take control when things seem to be going downhill. Professionally, be upfront about the risks of moving along in the same manner, reel it in, and continue.
They say experience is the best teacher, and I couldn’t agree more. Experience has taught me to discern what is authentic and what I should steer clear from. I’ve learned my strengths and also my weaknesses. It’s taught me that my skill is rare and valuable, and also that it’s okay to make some mistakes. I’ve also learned about success, failure, and even developing a sound contract before taking on a project. Thanks to experience I’ve grown as a designer, and I will continue to grow in skill as long as I live.