Advice

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Top 10 tips for new designers

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A year or so ago I was invited to do a talk at Shillington. I wasn't sure what to say and wanted to make sure it was actually useful, rather than just showing some pretty pictures.

So, I had a think about what would've been useful to me when I first started. Anything that could've saved time or helped to avoid some of the costly mistakes I've made along the way was included. I hope it's useful...

 

1. Absorb

Listen to everyone
Not just those you consider relevant or respect
. Everyone has something useful to say.

Every skill learned, no matter how mundane is useful.

Grasp all opportunities.

Never stop learning.
As soon as you do that, it’s game over and you will simply be left behind

2. Work

Talent is not enough.
I have worked alongside some of the most talented/ respected in the business –they worked harder than anyone else.

Hard work is a given.
Don’t kid yourself, there is always someone out there working harder than you!

3. Experiment

Within your day job and in your own time, experiment.

Don’t wait for the ‘great project’
Make the current project great If it is corporate, even better opportunity to try something bold.

Don’t let good ideas go to waste
Use personal projects to; push yourself out of your comfort zone, collaborate for causes you care about, showcase the work you want to do and make use of unused ideas.

4. Focus

Don’t waste time — it’s precious and you can not ask for it back!

Decide what work you like doing most/ best at as soon as possible.
Then focus all your efforts in this direction
. This will help you to establish a reputation as a go-to person for this discipline
. This will not prevent you from offerring other services/skills
. Also, establish a USP.

Sooner you start heading towards your goal, the sooner you will get there.

5. Confidence

Anyone can have a good idea and ideas are king.
It is what you do with them that makes the difference between you and the next designer. If you do not believe in your work, it will show. And if you do not believe in it why should the client.

If you not like it, don’t show it.
The client will always pick the option you hate.

Don’t be in awe/ intimidated by established designers.
I have met some big names and it’s like meeting a celeb. Part of you wants them to be special or super human. When you realise they are just normal like anyone else, at first it’s disappointing. But then reassuring as you realise there is nothing to stop you achieving the same goals.

6. Network

Talk to everyone, help them whenever you can—without being exploited—and later down the line, those contacts and connections will pay off.
By this I do not mean sell to them. Build as many real relationships and connections as possible. Listen to them and find out what problems they are struggling with as then you can be of value. Even if you can not solve them, you might know someone who can. Later down the line they may then refer you.

Volume will help.
If you have a thousand connections, at any given time there is a good chance that at least one may require some help. If you have just 100, the chances are now very slim.

7. Promote

This is another area that myself and many designers I have spoken to struggle with.
Don’t get me wrong, I like it when people say they like my work. However, I really hate having to say ‘look at me’ ‘isn’t my work great’ to get it!

Unfortunately promotion is essential
You could be the best designer in the world, but if they can not find you, how can they hire you?

No excuse not to have your portfolio online
Never been easier to get your work out there online via free platforms like Creativepool.

However, they are free, so it is hard to stand out
Everyone is using them and you are competing with the World

8. Social

Use social media. It is free and powerful

It is a leveller.
Never before was it possible for those at the bottom to communicate with those at the top. Great for communicating with other designers and potentially obtain work/jobs.

However, use with caution.
Always think ‘could this be misconstrued/cause offence’. If in doubt, don’t post. Recently saw a big name Art director make a controversial statement on Twitter – caused a bit of a stir –potentially damaging to the reputation of them and their agency.

Don’t lie—you will be found out!

9. Be Tough

You will need to develop a thick skin
Get used to being told your work is wrong or a whole lot worse! Do not take it personally

Pick your battles
Fight those that are really integral to the solution

Recycle
Re-use the unselected ideas for future clients or personal projects That way your time is never wasted

10. Solve

Looking good is a given, so the true value is in the solution
If it looks great, but does not solve the problem, how much is it really worth?

Put yourself in the clients shoes
Ask a lot of questions. What problem are they trying solve and how can you help?

Don’t assume the brief is asking the right questions
It is ok to question it if you have an alternative solution. The client may request a new website when really their budget maybe better spent on a re-skin and some targeted advertising.

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