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Want to Be a Successful Designer By Age 30? Here's A Plan
Peter M March 31, 2021 · 5 min read
Gather InspirationThe first place to start if you’re looking to up your design game is the web. In particular, blogs, Tumblrs, Instagram feeds, and any other place that serves up design inspiration. A few favorites of ours include Designspiration, Art of Type and Archillect. We recently summed up our 50 favorite design blogs in this article. There are many more out there, but these are as good a place as any to begin. Crafting beautiful imagery and breathtaking visuals will always be the aim of any young designer. But honing your taste and deciding what you appreciate comes first. This phase of your career is all about setting the bar. Good creativity also comes from absorbing as much inspiration from as many sources as possible. Having all this stuff in your palette of possibilities broadens your horizons when it comes to making stuff on your own.
Create, Create, CreateNext up, you need to hit the canvas. The Photoshop canvas that is. Once you’ve soaked up inspiration, it’s time to start churning out stuff of your own. More so than at any other time in your career, early on is a time when you should aim to maximise your work output. At this stage, try not to worry about whether your work is as “good” as you’d like it to be. It’s more important to create rather than to refine. It’s also a good idea to create stuff across as many mediums as possible. Specializing can come later in your career. For now, delving into photography, sketching, UX design, hand lettering and more will help you cross-pollinate your skill base.
Seek FeedbackAfter you’ve got a few pieces of solid work under your belt, gather as much feedback as possible. This can come from people you know or work colleagues (if you work in the industry), or from relative strangers in communities like Dribbble. You don’t have to follow every piece of feedback to a tee, but if a large majority of people like or dislike your work, the consensus may just be right. In any case, try not to be defensive about the things you’ve created, as garnering advice and applying it to your design field of view is an almost guaranteed route to improvement. A special note on awards: the design industry is rife with glitzy ceremonies and shiny trophies with which to tempt you every step of the way. As a young designer, it can be easy to focus on winning metal and gaining the approval of others in the form of a page in an awards annual. There’s nothing wrong with awards per se, but try to treat them as an end rather than a means in themselves.
Chase Down ExperienceImmersing yourself in experience in all its forms is another must-do when you’re starting out in your design career. Work for big agencies as well as small studios. Freelance or go full-time. Get big brand work in your portfolio as well as charity pieces. All of it is grist for the mill.
StudyAn essential part of finding success as a young designer is education. This doesn’t have to be at a school, as there are as many elite designers that have been to college as those who have not. Rather, try to learn and educate yourself on as many aspects as design as possible. Read books on type, browse the art section of your local library, take a photography course. Anything you can do to up your design IQ, do it.
Find A MentorAn excellent way to get where you want to be? Find someone who’s already there. Seeking out a mentor is a mutually beneficial way for you to get better in your design skills. Mutually beneficial in the sense that you get to learn from someone more experienced than you, and your mentor gets the satisfaction in teaching someone lower on the ladder.
Define What Success Means To YouFinally, remember to take time to think about what your own definition of success in the design industry actually is. For some people, this will mean financial compensation, for others it will be peer recognition. Do you crave your work for a glamorous multinational being seen on a billboard by thousands of people? Or will you find more satisfaction in helping out a local cafe with a unique, hand-crafted brand identity? Wherever you’re aiming, remember to take pleasure in the steps along the way. Be sure you enjoy the work itself, because that’s one of the few constants in an ever-changing industry.
Any Other Tips?There you have it, a few helpful tips that will hopefully assist you on your way to a successful design career by the time you hit the big 3-0. What other tips would you offer? Let us know in the comments below.
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