Having an online presence in the design world has left me quite a position to fill, in fact, I get quite a few emails from design students (or alike) requesting advice or an interview.
Most of the time I do try to reply however, many times I seem to be repeating myself so I thought writing a post with my answers (& others) would be a good idea… the question that comes up guaranteed, every time is:
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a designer just starting out?
I usually respond with the same paragraph each time (it is saved in my Gmail drafts folder) and my advice goes something like this:
The biggest piece of advice that I would give an upcoming designer comes in a ‘package’ based from the little things that I have learned over my short career as a designer. These would be perfect for someone just starting out: Don’t undervalue your work. Seek criticism, not praise. Always keep learning & don’t be a static learner: do this by reading books, magazines, blogs and by practising. Collect & share things. Teach others. Never give up. Keep practising. Again, keep practising.
Advice From Other Professionals
Every week I interview a professional designer here on Just Creative Design (the section is called Designer In The Spotlight) and in every interview I have asked this exact same question – what is your biggest piece of advice for a designer just starting out?
Below are the responses from the designers who I have interviewed so far.
Lady Omega – Never give up. Generate as much happiness as possible. The main thing is to start, not speculate, but just start doing.
Colin Wright – Stick to your guns. If you like your style, and other people like your style, who cares if other other people don’t like your style?
Be knowledgeable. About anything and everything. This will allow you to relate to more and make you a more effective communicator.
Don’t be above anything. Sometimes the small jobs can lead to big ones (though don’t take a job just because a larger one was dangled in front of you).
Kai Chan Vong – Don’t give up. But don’t expect it to be easy. If you want to be half decent, you should expect to work really hard and try to learn from others as much as possible. The Internet has made it so that if you want to be a great designer – you need to learn from others on a day to day basis. Whether that’s from friends, co-workers or other designers: you need to constantly have your mind open. Good luck! You can do it!
Mike Smith – Never quit. No matter what gets in your way, or what hurdle you have to jump over, just keep going. I don’t care if you read zero websites and network with no one, just keep going. Push yourself and never give up. People will run their mouth and sometimes you might hit a dry spell in clients, but keep going. Use that time to design your own work or build something useful for other people. Progress every day. If you don’t take a step, you never move forward. Why sit still if you’re not happy in your current situation?
Prescott Perez-Fox – Make friends with everyone. Make sure you have people, upon people, upon people who you can call to collaborate with to make a job referral, or even just to chat and blow off steam. Don’t be that mad-scientist type who stays locked up all day: get out and make friends.
Drew Dunlap – Work your butt off! If you don’t try your best and give it your all, the customer will know: not only because of the way that they’re treated but also just by looking at their artwork.
Treat everyone you work with with respect and be kind. Customers talk about good designers but they talk way more about bad designers. Be respectful on blogs, contests and anything web related. Being distasteful not only reflects bad on you personally but also for your business. Don’t use slang or internet terms when talking with customers, be professional.
Think of grade-school: treat them as you’d like to be treated!
Chris Spooner – Strive to keep yourself updated with changes in the industry, this particularly relates to web design which seems to move at a pretty fast pace!
Jennifer Farley – Use a contract and get at least 25% upfront when doing design work.
Doug Cloud – Don’t give up. No matter how much you want to. No one is going to succeed if they give up. And besides, why would you want to?
Emily Lewis – Read, read, read what is out there, even if you don’t understand it all. Eventually, it will start to “click.”
And then, practice, practice, practice. Make your own site/portfolio/blog and implement the “cool” things you read about, even if it take hours to get it to work. You’ll never forget something you had to pull your hair out to get working.
Andi Creffield – If you’re in it for the money, you’re in the wrong business.
Kate McInnes – Don’t give up, don’t copy other peoples stuff and don’t forget to have fun!
Fabio Sasso – I think the most important thing is to love the whole design process, from the beginning to the end. That really helps when you have to start something from the scratch or review some steps. Also practice and share your experience with the others, it’s a nice way to recycle your thoughts and get more point of views.
Albert Lo – I’ve learned a lot by making mistakes along the way and to this day I’m still learning. My biggest piece of advice I would give someone starting out is to persevere trying to find your first design job, don’t get disheartened and be confident in what you design. Take your mind off things by coming up with personal projects or take a part time job, your first design job to get your foot through the door will come out of the blue when you least expect it.
Brian Yerkes – Never stop adding to your skill set, and always make sure that when you look back over your previous year, you have come a long way baby!
Further Advice For Design Students
- 1000 Words Of Advice For Design Students
- Top 10 Design Questions From Students
- 70+ Graphic Design Tips
- 24 Creatives Share Their Best Career Advice
- Advice For Design Students
- Really Good Advice from Michael Bierut
What would is the best piece of advice you could give a design student?