I've felt more compelled over the last few weeks to share more about my journey and experience as a designer; the good and the bad. This week I'm going to be sharing five things I’ve learned to do in my career as a designer. Some of these I learned the hard way (LOL), and some of these came from working in various environments. Also, let me know what you would like to see more of. Do you find these types of posts helpful? Anything you're curious about? Let me know in the comments.
1. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.
This is an imperative part of any design process for all creatives, not just designers. Never think your first version or idea was the best, but instead challenge that idea. Make drastic color or font changes to switch up the mood or direction. When showing your designs in a review, show a few of the versions you’ve played around with. This way you show that you are thinking through the overall goal, and are aware that there is more than one way to reach it. Iterating is also important when it comes to improving designs based on feedback from a steak holder, or manager. Let’s say a design has been live (in the case of websites/apps) or used (in the case of marketing materials or decks) and there is a new direction needed. Ask questions on what has worked and not worked with the previous design and be clear on the new direction. With this, you are able to create multiple iterations of what’s needed.
2. Get as many eyes on your work as possible
I can’t stress this one enough because as a junior designer, I didn’t do enough of this. Mainly because I didn’t want to come off as incompetent, but I was just shutting down one of my biggest resources to create more meaningful work. As simple as it sounds, don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off of your coworkers or team members. Even take it a step further and show family and friends what you’re working on (if permissible by your company). Often times people with an outside perspective can provide the best perspective as they are not closely tied to the project. I’m not saying run all of your designs by the people around you, but it never hurts to shoot over a few versions of something to someone and say, “Which one do you think for “x” project? The goal is to do “x””. There. Simple and you’ll probably get some good feedback too to use when you have to defend your work later. (See number 4).
3. Avoid finishing on the deadline date
I know, I know. This one is sometimes really hard, but if you are at all able to finish a project even a day before its due date, take advantage of it. This gives you time to look at your work with fresh eyes and new perspective. When I’m given a due date, I usually try to have a final version at least a day or two prior. This allows me to come back to my work and make sure nothing is missing, spelled incorrectly, rework part of a design, etc. When I have the chance to review I feel so much better about design reviews and submitting my work as “final”.
4. Learn to Defend your work
Defending your work means having logical reasons for everything and being able to articulate them at any time. Now, this is not to get “defending” confused with “making things up”. Defending is having a reason for every color, font, stroke size, button size, etc. that you make. This way, whenever you’re asked by a steak holder, manager, users, etc. why you went with a specific design, you can take them through your thought process and show how you landed on your final design. Another great way to defend your work if you are like me and easily forget things, is to create multiple iterations and document them like I mentioned in number one.
5. Design critiques are not personal
It’s almost impossible to ask a creative who loves what they do to not take it personally when someone pokes holes in their work. However, it’s important to remember that critiques usually are not a reflection of your design skills. The most important part of critiques is to understand WHY recommendations are being made or questions are being asked. Once you understand what is wanted or needed, that may help you reassess the project. The other important thing to do during critiques is to take good notes! I can’t stress this enough but instead of focusing on the fact that you might have multiple changes to make, taking notes will ensure that you have direction when it’s time to iterate on your design.