What I tell designers looking to improve

I love receiving emails from readers of Verse, connecting with everyone and helping out when I can. A common theme that comes up is how to improve as a designer and how get to the next level. It is a very loaded question with a lot of variables. I think there are no hard and fast rules as the best careers are the ones that zig and zag in my opinion. So it’s important for everyone to find their own truth, their highest potential and what they want out of their careers. But here are some tips that I’ve sent to a a couple of readers to help them on their way. To be a great designer you need to understand 3 main pillars in my opinion – Design, people and business.

1. Design

Craft

Innovation

Process

Aesthetic

Function 

Logic

The key is to never get complacent, keep sharpening your craft by benchmarking yourself against the best in the business and the people you look up to. Spend a few hours a day to work on your own side projects. If you could create some of your best work from a craft point of view what would it look like?

Also consider all the elements of UX. https://www.ebi.ac.uk/training/online/course/user-experience-design/what-user-experience-design/elements-user-experience Consider this diagram showing you the layers that make up our work. These are all the units that are working together. Whilst the diagram shows them as separate layers in my opinion they all work concurrently to create the best work possible. So learn how you can incorporate these layers into your own work. 

2. People

Goals

Desires

Perspective/Empathy

Trust

Relationships

Presenting/Selling

Communicating

The more senior you become the more you will need to understand people. At the heart of what we do it is about working and serving people.  

Users

When designing always think about how people will use your work. What are their goals and needs and how can you best service them. Read up on Design Thinking. It will allow you to have a framework that you can implement and work into your process. If you want to become a Creative Director this is an incredible skill to have. Learn how to conduct user workshops and usability testing sessions. Champion the needs of your users and put it at the core of what you do. To serve them you will need to understand them. 

Team members

Next is once you become a leader you will need to learn how to delegate. And manage a team. How do you get the best work out of your team. How do you inspire your team and keep morale high. It’s about understanding peoples personality types - do they like praise for their work? What challenges do they enjoy? Are they the type that you need to be firm with. You need to stick up for your team and be accountable if something goes wrong. That is the sign of a good and trusted leader. The way that most agencies work is you will be less on the tools and more about overlooking on the quality of work, the vision, your users and clients needs. This is not all agencies but most agencies. So consider is this where you want your career to head into - you will be creating less and overlooking more. Read up on How to win friends and influence people. 

Clients

Here you will need to learn how to sell, present and earn the trust of clients. You need to champion your processes believe in your ideas and the work that you guys are doing. Be nice and be authentic and really stand for your ideas, what you believe in and your users. Your clients will respect you for it. At the same token think about what kind of person would you like to work with. Be personable, be friendly and above be great at what you do. That’s how you form a good relationship and build trust. 

3.Business

Goals

Make more money - MOAAR!!

Create change

Create a message

Improve operations

Value

To advance your career, you need to understand that our work helps solve problems. It is how we provide value with our work. Think about what you bring to the table and clearly explain how you provide value to the agencies that you work for or the clients that you serve. So learn to articulate how your designs can solve and reach a clients desired goals. The more you do this the more experience you will have and the more people will respect you.

But also beyond this is also about the intangible. It’s about your personality and if you are a joy to work with and to be around. Your diversity and experiences are what makes you great and unique. So learn to highlight these strengths. Most of all have fun and enjoy the ride. When you can show companies that you are invaluable you will rise up the ranks should you choose to. 

So go out there and create value for the agency you work for and the clients that you serve. And should you choose to eventually venture out on your own using everything you’ve learnt. I hope some of this helps you on your journey.