Does your creativity know no limits, do you know colour theory, typography, usability, web standards and every principle of web design like the back of your hand, can you write HTML, CSS, JQuery, PHP with your eyes closed? If this sounds like you, (I’m exceptionally jealous) do you think this makes you a successful designer? Being a successful designer is 50% ability and 50% attitude, if you have the wrong attitude you may find yourself lagging behind those designers who are less technically gifted than you, but have a much better attitude.
Design for the Right Reasons
Why did you become a designer? If it was to simply pay the rent and not for a love of design then maybe it’s time to rethink your career options if you want to be a success. Becoming a successful designer requires not only ability but a passion for design. If you don’t love what you do it becomes extremely difficult to stay motivated, develop new skills, hit deadlines and most importantly produce high quality work.
Learn to Accept Criticism
Let’s face it, design is subjective. Not everyone will like your work all of the time and that’s ok. There are two types of criticism: constructive criticism and bad criticism. Firstly, take the bad criticism, bite your tongue and ignore it. Bad criticism is not useful and if you take it personally it can be destructive to your confidence.
Constructive criticism, however, is invaluable and it helps you improve your skills as a designer. You should take these suggestions and learn from them. It will make you a better designer.
Nobody likes criticism, the important thing is not to take it personally, what one person loves you can guarantee another person will hate, it just comes down to personal preference.
Develop a Strong Work Ethic
Becoming a successful designer requires hard work, a lot of hard work. To the outside world we simply “make things pretty”, but we all know that there is a lot more to it than that. From the initial design brief, to wireframing, to design, to building, it’s important that you put everything you can into every stage of the process. Nobody ever became successful by cutting corners and not putting in the effort. Developing a strong work ethic is particularly important if you’re a freelancer, getting up at lunch time, responding to a few emails, working for a couple of hours and then clocking off at 4pm will not make you successful.
Get Involved with the Web Design Community
Write a blog, write an article for someone else’s blog, read and comment on design blogs, share your knowledge with other designers. The web design community is an awesome way to improve your knowledge. If you ever need help with anything or even just want feedback on your latest design, post a link through Twitter or the design forums and you can guarantee that other designers will provide you with their thoughts.
Getting involved with the design community will also help you find work when times are tough, other designers are constantly looking to outsource some of their project work when they are busy and use both the community and social networking to find help. Not only can this help to pay the bills but it will also give you the opportunity to work with designers who may be a lot more experienced than you, giving you an excellent chance to learn new skills.
Never Stop Learning
Read design blogs, follow tutorials, read books. To be successful your knowledgebase needs to keep expanding. You don’t need to be a jack of all trades and know everything, but you should at least have a sound knowledge and understanding of as many web technologies as you can. For example, if you’re a designer who doesn’t code it is still important to have a good understanding of HTML, CSS and JQuery as this will enable to better prepare your designs. If you specialise in one aspect of design make sure that you know that one area inside out.
The more you learn, the better you get, the better you get the more successful you can become.
Have Confidence in your Own Ability
If you lack confidence in your ability as a designer it will show in your work. If you have little faith in your skills it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to learn new skills, to work hard, to accept and learn from criticism and ultimately become successful. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, how can you expect potential clients to?
Communication Skills are Crucial
For the majority of us our best work is produced late at night, Ipod in hand and with no distractions. This is usually how we like to work and if we could we would probably spend every minute of the job like this. However, it is vital to have or to develop good communication skills. You need to be able to explain to clients your design choices, why you chose them and why you feel they work. You need to be able to listen to your client’s ideas and expand on them or explain why they might not work.
Poor communication will lead to you not gathering requirements accurately in the design brief, which will then lead to you wasting hours working on a design that is completely different from what the client envisaged.
Good communication may be the difference between you winning a project or losing it to another designer who has better expressed their ideas to the client.
Know when to Take a Break
Working 16 hours a day, 365 days a year will not guarantee you success. Whilst it important to work incredibly hard, it’s vital that you don’t burn yourself out. Burn out will lead to a decrease in your creativity and productivity; there’s a pretty good chance you will find yourself in a constant state of “designers block”. You’ll find yourself feeling worn out, which will lead to you being in a bad mood, which will lead to you staring at a blank screen not knowing where to start.
Take a break, get away from your desk, go on holiday, go out with friends. Recharge your batteries, you’ll feel better and when you feel better you work better.
Besides ability and skill, what other attributes do you think are important to become a successful designer?