I’m frequently asked for career advice, whether it’s after lectures I have given, at design events, meetups or from students and juniors reaching out online or during the intern programs we’ve run here at Kind.
I always start by saying you should be hungry for knowledge (now and throughout your whole career) and have a desire for constant self improvement, because design roles are always evolving and, as the internet is a fast paced industry with technologies and methodologies changing rapidly, you will need to keep up.
With this in mind, I have put together my key tips on starting out in the design world.
Articles and posts online can be useful, however they can be more concise summaries and don’t always give the depth needed. Books are carefully crafted to teach you a subject thoroughly. Check out what the top designers are recommending and give them a go.
Ask questions... so many questions
Don’t stop asking until you understand. Don’t say “yes” unless you really mean it. It’s better to ask loads questions up-front than making the same mistakes and losing confidence because you are confused or struggling to work through a design or process.
Learn the tools of your trade
Become efficient at using the tools of our industry. But don’t get hung up on them as they will change over time. Be aware of new tools but don’t constantly jump ship to the latest and greatest. After all, there was great design before the very latest version of your favourite software. Spending less time thinking of how to use these tools will give you more time for design thinking and problem solving.
Be aware of trends but don’t be a slave to them
Trends are often driven by fashion and technology developments. It is important to have a good grasp of the current trends and innovation without being held to being an expert in all of the latest developments which may or may not stay around.
Find a few great online resources
We’re often tempted to bookmark, subscribe and download infinite amounts of information and hoard it. However we can only consume, understand and absorb a fraction of this. So be selective about what resources you pick and invest your time in the really great ones.
Working on personal side projects, conceptual ideas and prototypes (whichever you prefer) really helps you to put your learnings into practice and to develop your skillset, ensuring that all of your hard work and development is not forgotten. This also acts as a great opportunity to try out new things and develop your own personal style.
Invest in training
Finding a good course can be difficult as there are so many options out there. You will often find that the best ones cost money, but don’t be put off investing financially in your development as, ultimately, your career will progress faster and you will find your job easier as a result.
Find designers you admire and aim for their standard
Don’t aim for making your work ‘a bit better’. Aim to make your designs the best that they can possibly be. Put your work alongside the people that you consider to be at the pinnacle of their career and benchmark yourself against that. What are they currently doing that you don’t? Are there parallels between your work? What are the areas you need to improve on to reach this next step?
Ask someone you respect to become your mentor
It might be scary when you are younger to reach out to more experienced designers but asking someone who is experienced and whose work you admire could be really beneficial to you. Seeking advice and feedback on your work could offer you valuable insight into progressing your work and career and could help you to avoid common mistakes by learning from someone else's. *Note: if you are asking for someone’s time offering to buy them a coffee and/or cake does not go amiss!
Be proactive: gain studio experience
Be eager to learn and understand what it is like to work in a busy studio by simply asking local agencies if they will show you around their office. Ask if they have intern programs or if you can shadow a designer for a day. Find out what they can offer and let them see your interest.
Attend design events
You will meet other like-minded people within the industry. The talks and lectures are useful but networking with your peers is the most valuable part. Try not to stand in a corner with your free drink, go over to someone and say “Hi”, chances are they feel as nervous as you. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll become comfortable in the situation and make the most of getting to know people that have similar interests to you.
Write your own dream CV
What are you aiming for? Who are you trying to be? Setting a goal is the best way of achieving success. This will define what you need to improve on, gaps you have which you need to fill and provide you with a great learning plan.
Show your work
Are you on Dribbble, Behance, Instagram? Use these free platforms to get your work out there and tell your story. If you’ve not yet got client work then get creative. Set yourself a brief and design work to fulfill it. Ask family and friends if they need work, offer to do projects for local community organisations or charities. There are plenty of opportunities to be found so there is really no excuse to not be working on new ideas. Promote the final work but be sure to document the process and show how you have achieved your final concept.
Never stop learning, if you sometimes feel out of your comfort zone you’re doing the right thing! Push yourself, learn from the experts and those around you that have been there before.
There is no shortcut to mastery the only way is to practice, practice, practice.