There is no spoon…
Tips & advice for those getting started within the design industry.
Spoiler alert: There is no defined recipe for success. To make it to the top of the ladder escalator style. But I’m hoping that the following tips and advice can help someone who’s fresh into their design journey shift perspective.
Network = Net Worth
Make friends. Make connections. Both in and out of your circle.
Not just designer friends to lean on for design advice, but widen the circle and get to know other people across different sectors or different parts of the business.
Different insights and perspectives will then help you advance not only in designing & problem solving but also in how they all connect together: the bigger picture.
Most of the time it’s not what you know but who you know.
In other words. Network.
Learn how to speak to people
Following on nicely from networking.
As silly as it sounds, people respond differently depending on the level and style of communication.
According to psychological studies and various management training programs (Strengths Finder, LEAD Communications to name a couple), every one has a default trait when at work (and a different one when outside of work).
These are usually grouped by colour: Red, Green, Blue and Yellow.
Each colour group has certain personality traits associated with communication. For example, ‘Reds’ are direct, no-nonsense and want the direct facts with little to no time-wasting. Whereas ‘Greens’ are more emotive, and require an emotional trigger when being communicated to. They are big on soft skills and like it when people build up to ask; so a bit of chit-chat and ‘how are you?’ before being brought into and onto the journey. Give background context and relevant information such as before they begin.
Blue’s are analytical…
Yellows are creative…
And so on.
The groups are a little stereotypical but are very useful in allowing you to recognise communications styles and then allow you to flex your approach accordingly.
Where this comes into play with design is what you do outside of the design; the job doesn’t end once you have crafted a beautiful design. It’s how you communicate afterwards once it’s done — how you present it, explaining what you have done and why.
The way you tell the story.
The way you sell it.
Soft skills are a required essential.
Believe in yourself
In your capabilities. Your skills. Your own self. Back yourself (without being naive).
Sure, being new to the game you may not know what you’re good at and where you are in need improvement but don’t let that hold you back.
You won’t initially know what you like, dislike etc. so my advice is to try as many different things as possible. Within UX alone — which is now becoming an overused dirty word; there are numerous roles:
- UX Analyst
- UX Strategist
- UX Writer
- UX Designer
- UX Researcher
Within design itself there are various roles:
- UI Designer
- Interaction Designer
- Digital Designer
- Service Designer
- Product Designer
- Content Designer
And then numerous design styles:
- Digital UI
- Graphic Design
- Flat Design
In other words, there are lots to discover regardless of which path you take.
The age-old debate of specialising or generalising will come into play. I, personally, say do as much as you can.
Try them all. Get exposure and see what you like and what you don’t, then get good at it.
It’s a ‘Toolbox mentality’. The more skills you have been exposed to and can do, the more versatile you become to do “get the job done” whatever that may be.
Put in the work
Regardless of path and craft, work hard at it.
If you’re looking to get started then do your prep work. Work on a good folio and personal brand.
Work on your skills. Work on your craft to be amazing. Keep upping the bar each time. But most importantly put your own stamp on things. Take pride in your work.
There’s a real science behind design and all the creative principles. And when done right its impactful (as all good design should be) and connects emotionally with the audience to tell a story. Little details make a big difference.
Once you’ve learnt the skills inside the trade you’ll also need to build skills outside of that, such as building your confidence as you will be tested. So knowing how to articulate yourself will be key as mentioned earlier presenting your designs back won’t be enough in some cases; you’ll need to explain your thought process, what you have done and why. And then championing that through to the end.
Imposter syndrome will come into play too. When you doubt yourself. Or others may doubt you. Whether you can do this.
That’s the time to dig deep and prove all the critics wrong. If someone says “I can’t do something…” that should add fuel to the fire for you to do it.
If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will.
Be your own best fan and your own worst critic.
Ask others for advice / help, but don’t wait on them and don’t use that as an excuse.
You can’t always rely on others to teach you what you think you need to know.
The design industry is ever-evolving. New technology means new devices, means new functions, means new designs.
So be wise to stay up to date, or at least know about what is happening out there.
Experience is key. No such thing as a loss. Only lessons.
The only loss is not trying. So when facing an obstacle:
And soak up all that experience.
Experience trumps theory any day of the week.
You will need to be flexible in your approach. To everything.
Whether that’s designing to solve a problem, adapting to new surroundings, new ways of working, technology etc…
Adapting is a fundamental skill that you will need throughout any career (or life in general) once presented with changes or challenges.
Whatever you do. We spend a lot of time at work so be sure to have some fun whilst you do it.
Take pride in your work.
Work to a high standard.
Make some money.
And be sure to smile along the way.
Find a mentor
Having a coach or design mentor can help you empower you to learn through other people’s experiences, and push you to the next level in ways you hadn’t thought.
If you’re in an organisation then ask someone you look up to mentor you or look online / elsewhere. There are lots of platforms out there dedicated to this and always having someone to go to for advice can be an indispensable advantage to learning.
Thank you for reading.
Did i miss anything? Let me know your thoughts.
This story was written by Kultar Singh Ruprai.
Your friendly neighbourhood designer.