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9 Habits of Designers Who Stand Out

By on May 2, 2016 in Tutorials
9 Habits of Designers Who Stand Out

If there’s one thing that’s extremely hard to do in the field of design, it’s trying to stand out.

Remember that this is an industry filled to the brim with creative people. Everybody has their own thing. Everyone has their own brand. Everyone either follows the rules, or breaks them.

Especially if you’re new in the business, it’s easy to just be swallowed whole or blend into the background. But that’s not what you’re here for. If you are truly passionate about design, you have probably found yourself dreaming about being one of the greatest, with your name being remembered every time anyone sees anything remotely similar to your work.

You have the urge to stand out.

It’s not an easy feat, but it can definitely be done. Here are a few habits that help top designers stand out.

1. They look at other designers' work.

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You will never know how to stand out if you don’t know what you’re going up against.

Look for designers who have the same sets of inspiration and who do the same kind of work that you do or aspire to do. There's a high chance that, if your end result is similar, you can learn from the techniques they're using.

Once you do that, find out where you can start innovating. Find the aspects of your work that are similar to theirs and bring your own twist on them to create a signature. A brand of your own.

2. They're not afraid to experiment.

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It’s a given in any field. You will never be able to stand out if you do what everyone else is doing.

Remember Emmett in The Lego Movie? People didn’t even remember him! That’s because he has always done what everybody else was doing. He never went out of his way to do something that wasn't written in his precious set of instructions.

Don’t be Emmett. Do not bind yourself to a fixed set of guidelines to follow. So what if everyone is doing a certain thing or applying a certain trend? Wouldn’t it be better for you to start trends of your own instead of just following trends that someone else has set?

Experimentation is the key.

3. They think about what they want to be known for.

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You can’t just be known as ‘Joe the Designer’ all the time. That makes you almost the same person as ‘Bill the Designer’, ‘Jerry the Designer’, and ‘Ted the Designer’. Think about something more specific.

Would you want to be known for your logo design work? If you do, what do you want people to remember about your designs? What about your character? How will people remember you? Would you be that aloof service provider or that guy who always had a joke to go with that handshake?

Always aim to be ‘Joe, the amazing logo designer who wears a pink tie and tells the funniest knock-knock jokes you have ever heard’.

4. They find ways to connect with clients in a timely manner.

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Sure, designers are always busy and customers should know that. However, this is also a way for you to stand out and be easily remembered by clients, both current and potential.

Where other designers make their clients wait, find ways to respond promptly to messages and calls — no matter where you are and what you’re doing.

You can install a desktop email client and stay connected on your phone all the time in case you’re out of the office. Set an out-of-office reply each time you know you won’t be able to reply to messages right away, regardless if it’s going to be just an hour long meeting or a weekend away with family.

Even if it will just be a moment, respond with a text message, saying you’ll call them right back.

It’s better to respond and give them a certain timeframe on when you’ll be able to get back to them, than making them wait without any assurance at all. This makes you stand out not only as a creative designer, but as a truly professional one.

5. They bring a few add-ons to their service.

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You don’t always have to be paid for every single thing that you do for clients. The funny thing is, when clients realize this, they'll probably be more willing to hire you over other designers who charge for every stroke they make and every second they spend on the project.

Add value to your work by offering something extra. For example, you could offer a bonus graphic for every client who asks you to redesign their website.

Or you could even go all the way and surprise your client with a fruit basket every Thanksgiving, or a holiday or birthday card when those special times in the year come around.

No, this is not a way to bribe your clients to take on your services forever. This is a way for you to show them that you’re not only a great designer, but a nice human being too.

6. They listen to what clients have to say.

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Many designers lose their clients not because of their lack of creativity, but their lack of ability to listen. Sure, you’re the trained designer and your client doesn’t understand your creative point of view. But that doesn’t give you the right to shut them out and ignore their opinion.

If anything, listening to client feedback can help you prepare a better response that might actually convince them. Blocking them out will only frustrate them and make them more hostile to your brand of art.

Client-designer conflict is not new. It’s a given. Many designers think creatively, while most clients go at it from a business perspective. But if you would only sit down for a moment while they tell you everything they have to say, you could also understand where they are coming from more clearly, allowing you to explain your work to them using a language that they'll understand.

7. They explain their work.

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Don’t expect clients to understand why you did what you did. If they understood everything about our craft and were able to execute entire design projects, then they wouldn’t be hiring you in the first place.

Explain what effect specific colors have on their target audience, or how studies show that a certain look appeals more to the age range they are targeting. Once they understand that you’re there to help the business, they will be more open to your creative input.

8. They find out more about how business works.

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Just because you’re the designer that doesn't mean that you should only concern yourself with design items. Analyze the business side of things as well.

Stand out by surprising clients with your knowledge about the business. Try finding a way to explain to them how design can play a significant role in making their numbers turn around (if their business is not running as well as they'd like) or make their business go further than where they are now.

9. They're not afraid to promote their own work.

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Many designers steer away from shameless self-promotion because they feel that it’s something that only desperate people do. In reality though, you should think about what you’re helping your clients do. Your design, after all, is part of their marketing plan, right? So if clients do it for their brand, why aren't we doing it for our personal brands too?

Post your work online and ask people to look at it and give feedback. Tell people about what you do every chance you get. They may not need your services now, and may even get irritated that you mentioned something like that out of the blue. But the moment they find the need for a designer, guess whose name will come to mind first?


Again, standing out is a challenging thing to do in the world of design. But if you plan your strategies well enough, you’ll find your name breaking away from the rest of the pack, making it easier for you to be noticed and hired.


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4 Comments

  1. asukawashere

    Brilliant points! Especially about added services/freebies. Most of my clients know I may be a designer Mon–Fri, but I also run a 3-season farm market stand as a hobby on the weekend. They know that if they call me in on a Monday between April and November, I'm likely to bring a basket of whatever didn't sell over the weekend with me. It's no skin off my back since I grow more food than I can eat myself, and I get to be known as that freelancer who comes with bonus fresh food—and which would you rather have, the freelancer who comes in with a tie and briefcase, or the equally skilled one who has the home-grown vegetable basket?

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