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How to get ahead in your design career 7 useful tips

With the changing job climate, today’s professionals are increasingly gravitating towards careers that allow flexibility within their schedules, the opportunity for remote working, and a greater work-life balance. This is something that is happening more and more in creative industries like design, where there are higher numbers of small businesses, self-employed workers, and freelancers than ever. These also happen to be some of the most competitive industries, making climbing the career ladder a challenge. 

The good news is that no matter where you are in your design career, or what your background is, with hard work and drive, it is entirely possible to find your niche in the design world. In this blog, we discuss how to get ahead in your design career

1. Work backwards

If you have a goal in mind – whether that’s UX design, logo design, graphic design, or website design – look at other designers who are successful in those roles and follow their lead. In other words, work backwards. What do you need to do to get to that position? For example, if it’s web design you’re interested in, a good starting point would be to check out the portfolios of professional designers and see what their educational and career backgrounds are, and how their standard of work compares to your own. You could also contact them with any questions. Not only will this demonstrate your enthusiasm, but it will also help you to gain insider knowledge.

2. Practice makes perfect

You may be a naturally gifted artist but learning some of the other components of design, such as how to use design software and other design technology, takes time. Enrolling in a design course will give you access to these programs, as well as tuition from design professionals who can help you to sharpen your skill set. Better yet, you’ll also gain certification to enhance your CV.

3. Always look for design inspiration

Successful designers have one thing in common – and that’s that they never stop looking for inspiration. There are many ways in which you can do this, from keeping in touch with what is going on in the wider industry to attending art exhibits and events. You can also take inspiration from other forms of media such as podcasts and TV series. We highly recommend the podcast, ‘The Honest Designers’, and the Netflix series, ‘Abstract: The Art of Design’.

4. Talk to other designers

If you have a designer or a design company that you admire, why not pick their brain? By talking to and networking with others in your field, you’ll understand more about their thinking patterns, helping you to solve design-related problems you come across in the future, and perhaps even giving you a fresh perspective on your own designs. It may also open opportunities for future collaborations. 

5. The design portfolio is king

For anyone in a creative industry, having a portfolio is a must – and this is especially true for designers. As well as being a chance to reflect your creativity, a design portfolio also showcases your work to potential clients. In a society that is more digitally connected than ever, having an online portfolio has become increasingly important. It also allows potential clients to discover your work without you having to pursue them directly. An offline portfolio is equally important for meeting clients in-person and a good talking prompt for meetings and interviews. 

6. Learn to think like a designer

Once you’re into the swing of creating designs, you can start to reflect on your work. By getting into the question-framing mindset and asking yourself things like ‘What are the common elements I find in designs I like?’ and ‘How would I improve a design I don’t like?’ you are retraining your mind to think in terms of design. But as much as it’s important to look at our work through a critical eye, you should also allow yourself to get lost in dreams from time to time. After all, creativity happens when we stop and let our thoughts flow.

7. Read Books About Human Culture and Psychology

If you want to get ahead in your design career, you need to keep in mind that your work is ultimately a product which will be sold to consumers. One of the best ways to begin to understand what consumers want is by learning about human motivation and behaviour. Getting into the mind of your intended audience will help you to tailor your designs to their needs and desires. Grow your library with books on this subject including: ‘The Design of Everyday Things’, and ‘Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas and Others Die’.

by Emma Gibbins | 13 Jan 21

3 Interesting Courses For You

Graphic Design Intro
  • To think like a designer
    Improve your visual skills
    Typography and colour theory
    To use brand guidelines
    Plan your projects successfully
InDesign Intro          
  • Create documents from scratch
    Integrate graphics, images and text
    Work with multiple pages
    Optimise work for print and web
    Tips, shortcuts and good practice
Photoshop Intro
  • Photoshop's interface and workflow
    How to work with Layers
    Tone and colour correction
    Image retouching techniques
    Filters to add special effects