After 10 years in the design industry, I've learnt many lessons that would have helped my 21 year old newly graduated self, who was more interested in sex, drugs and alcohol.
So whether you’re starting out, stuck in a dead-end job, wanting a new job, wanting your dream job, or want to do your own thing, hopefully this advice will help you achieve those goals as I know it has served me well.
Treat every project as if it is a portfolio piece.
Don't wait around for that perfect project to come by, the one in front of you has every opportunity to be perfect. It's key that you remember this because it means that every project you work on, you're applying 100% of yourself. The client or brief won't always be famous or interesting but there’s no reason why you can’t still design something great.
Don't fear failure
Try new things and don’t be afraid if they don’t turn out the way you want. It’s the trying that counts and judging from experience, some of my best work was created by accident or through experimentation. So don’t ever stop experimenting with design and technology, infact do more of it!
Not just about visual design, but philosophy, science, psychology, soft skills (like presenting), graphic novels – the list goes one. Trust me, read different subject matters and it will teach you more than any dribbble or behance. It will open your mind and help you a see different perspectives when creating unique and meaningful experiences.
Find new sources of inspiration
A lot of my inspiration comes from common places like the TV, movies, websites, posters etc, which is where everyone else is drawing theirs from. Look for different things to be inspired by such as mechanics, science and nature. Go out of your comfort zone and explore new places and activities you wouldn't ordinarily do.
Spend 15 mins a day designing something
Sometimes you’ll work on long projects, other times you be on projects that just don’t excite you, so for 15 minutes everyday, design something random. It will revive your love for design and probably spawn new ideas for future projects or even change the way you look at your current project.
Don’t look at blogs too much
On the one hand, they are great to get inspired by and observe a level of quality that you should be aiming for, but ultimately too much of it will only cloud your ability to think creatively and visualise original ideas. I often think that reading design blogs is like reading beauty magazines – they will only make you feel ugly!
Always do personal projects
Whether it’s for money or not, your day job won’t always fill the void of designing the things you want. So you need a way to make it happen and get it out of your system. It may not see the light of day or make any money, but no work is deemed worthless and in some way, shape or form it will help you progress in craft, career or life in general.
I hate to say it but that rivalry is good for you and your best work can come out of those situations when you feel like you have to prove you’re a good designer. That said, don’t waste your time on jealousy; Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…but the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Don’t settle for what's in front of you and keep pushing those boundaries to strive for perfection. This is what makes your work bulletproof when people challenge it.
Remember to take advice humbly and don't be so defensive about your work. People aren’t saying things to make it worse and whether or not you chose to accept it or not, you should always listen and understand WHY it is being said.
It’s crucial you keep topping up your skills and that means having good knowledge on various different software and ways to execute creative ideas. Don’t just rely on Photoshop and Illustrator. You’ll find there are other tools out there that can improve workflow and create innovative outcomes.
So there you have it... the things you need to know before you go out there and into the wild that is the design industry. It won’t be easy but I promise you that if you follow these rules, you’ll achieve your dreams several times over.