A lot of people have been asking me recently how to start a design career or even how to be a great designer. So instead of replying to all of them one by one, I thought writing an article would be much easier. So whether you’re a total beginner or you’ve already started studying design, I’ll share my experience, and try to help you in 10 steps to be not just a good designer but a great designer
1 – Self-learningI attended a design school, and to be honest, I didn’t learn that much. This really depends on the school, but overall design schools suck at teaching design (sorry). Mostly because they teach you with basic examples and not many “real-life” examples. It’s good if you want to learn basic design stuff like photoshop or even HTML. But right now, you can find this quite easily on the web. Some good of website to self-learn:
2 – Be passionateI believe deeply that being passionate is one of the keys to being a great designer. If you are working or learning design and don’t feel any passion for it, I’ll advise you to find a real passion, and that might not be design. Because if you don’t feel any passion and excitement when you’re crafting something, you’re not going to go far in the design industry, trust me. Passion can push you over your limits, to surpass yourself. When you’re doing design, it’s not just about changing colours or adding some good looking fonts. Design is a lot more thinking. So if you don’t want to think outside of the box, or don’t want to surpass yourself, you can’t be a great designer.
3 – Do side projectsAs I said, doing side projects is a big part of self-learning. I do believe that is the best way to practice, and I say that from experience. When I lived in France, I started going to some events about startups and did my first Hackathon in 2011. It was such a good experience. You basically have to create an app with a team of people you don’t know in 48 hours… Yeah sounds crazy but actually, as of today, most of skills and experience are from all these hackathons. I really started enjoying design and started learning what really was a Product Designer. I did a lot a hackathons, I won some but failed a lot. But you learn from your failures.
Design is solving problems, doing research, find the best way to solve a problem or to sell something.
4 – Solve a problemA lot of designers think a great designer is somebody who can do the best visual, pixel-perfect and colour palette work. I need to say, design isn’t just about visuals. Design is solving problems, doing research, find the best way to solve a problem or to sell something. If you want to spend your time doing visual work, crafting colour palettes and shapes, you can be an artist, but being a designer is not the same thing.
5 – Work in teamDon’t work solo, work in teams. This is the best way to share ideas and experience. Don’t believe all the best designers work alone and figured out one day what was the best design. The best designers such as Jony Ive have got a team behind them. Helping him craft the best design for Apple’s products. Don’t be selfish, you don’t know everything. Share and people will also share with you.
6 – Always be up to dateYou need to be always looking for new trends and new inspiration. Why? Because your brain is like a huge database of images, colours, combinations, and you need to feed it to be more efficient. That why it’s hard when you start designing to know exactly what to do because your brain didn’t have this data in its memory and is not used to it. You need to train your brain. It’s like going to the gym to train your body.
7 – Don’t rush into your computerI used to see a lot of young designers rushing into photoshop or sketch when starting new designs. I have to say STOP! Unless you have 5 or 10 years of experience and know exactly what is the best way to do things. Even those people have to look for inspiration and do some research. Don’t think you know everything. Look for inspiration and do some research before you start crafting. Merge your inspiration/research into a perfect design that is solving your problem. And I believe deeply that sketching is still very useful when starting a design. Put things on the table, start to sketch, and put all the research/inspiration next to it. That’s how you should start your design. Designing on the computer is the last part of the process.