Ready to advance your design career this year? Not sure what design skills to focus on in your portfolio for the best results? We’ve got you covered.
According to Dribbble’s new Design Industry Trends Report, designers want to focus on developing a few essential skills in 2022 that will advance their careers and make them more valuable. If you want to invest in your design career this year, keep reading to learn which skills are trending in design and will make you a more hireable designer.
1. Business Skills
As designers, we often focus on design skills as the key to career advancement and success. But according to the data gathered from surveying over 13,500 designers worldwide, business skills are actually one of the top skills for career success.
“Business skills,” of course, is a pretty vague description. Think about the skills that are most likely to impact design projects and how successful they are. That can include things like:
- Analytical skills: Being able to analyze a problem as well as potential solutions for it.
- Sales and marketing skills: Understanding the psychology behind sales and marketing can make you a more effective designer since virtually every website is trying to “sell” something (even if that something doesn’t cost anything).
- Problem-solving skills: Design is all about solving problems. Having a strong skill set in this area will make you a more creative designer who provides better solutions.
- Resource management skills: Being able to manage resources on your team, whether that’s time or finances, allows you to keep projects on time and under budget. Those are both factors that strongly influence how successful you’ll be perceived by non-designers.
Working on these soft skills sometimes takes a backseat to more technical design skills. But they provide value for potential employers and can make a big difference in how successful you are as a designer and how far your career advances.
Art by Karina
Communication skills have a two-fold reason for being vital for advancing your design career. First, being able to communicate with team members and stakeholders about your designs is important for creating the best products in the most efficient way. Communication skills in that way are pretty standard across any industry, though.
The second reason is more intriguing: All design is communication. Every design project you work on will be communicating a message in some way. Understanding the nuances of how to effectively communicate and present your designs gives you an advantage over designers with mediocre or poor communication skills.
"You must be consistent with your communication. People forget and deviate quickly from what they heard a week ago. The same applies to your design process. People don’t know what you do and how it works. Always explain and (re-explain) what you are working on so others can trust you." — Eugen Eşanu, Product Designer
Communication skills are best improved through intentional practice. Taking time and effort to make sure that you fully understand what people are saying to you, either verbally or in writing, and then ensuring that way you say in return is clear and thoughtful is a good place to start. As you continue to communicate in intentional ways, it will become easier and more natural for you.
Art by Darya Semenova
3. Motion & Animation
Motion graphics and animations are a growing part of the internet. They are found everywhere from product how-tos and sales videos, to micro-interactions that give users valuable feedback while using a product. They’ve also become standard for many social media platforms, and there's good reason why.
Motion graphics can make boring content more attractive, digestible, and engaging. Companies big and small have started to recognize the power of animation as a way to attract customers to their products. This means if you're a designer who is well-versed in motion graphics, you already have a big leg-up in the hiring pool.
Whether you're a web designer who wants to incorporate animation into your work or an illustrator who wants to learn how to bring your compositions to life, mastering motion graphics and animation design will you an edge in your career. Even things like being able to create simple micro-animations or animated GIFs can be a big skill boost for many designers’ careers.
Art by Lemons Animation Studio
Illustration has been popular in design since before the advent of the internet. That’s not likely to change any time soon. Honing your illustration skills leads to career advancement opportunities that don’t exist otherwise. And with all of the digital illustration tools available, learning basic illustration skills is easier than ever.
Proficiency in illustration can lead to design careers that focus primarily on illustration, or can just be another tool in your arsenal. Even basic illustration skills can be a huge boon to your career — just check out all of the simple illustration accounts on Instagram that have huge followings. They understand that it’s not so much about the illustration being “perfect” as much as it is about the message those illustrations convey. And that’s also what’s important when using illustrations in product designs.
If you want to learn how to develop your illustration skills as a beginner, here are 10 powerful tips from illustrator & instructor Tom Froese.
"The hallmark of a good illustrator is their ability to transform a common idea or object into something more symbolic or spiritual." — Tom Froese, Illustrator
Art by Joanna Nowak
5. User Research
If you want to make better design decisions, start with research. User research skills are the backbone of good product design.
For years, many companies overlooked the importance of user research and instead would dive right into the “design” portion of a project, basing their design choices on assumptions about what users want or need. Now, things are changing.
Companies are starting to invest in research tools, processes, and even specialists—going as far as hiring dedicated User Researchers to their product teams. Once companies have a solid grasp on what their users actually want and need (and what their competitors aren’t adequately providing) they can design better products.
Understanding how to properly conduct that user research gives you an edge over other designers who lack those skills.
Art by Nikita_Krushko
Showcase these skills in your design portfolio
Whatever skills you decide to focus on developing in 2022, know that you won't get hired unless you thoughtfully showcase these skills in your design portfolio. Keep these skills top of mind as you refresh your design portfolio this year to set yourself up for success.
Remember that by gaining new skills and more knowledge, you have more options in how you approach design problems. So keep learning and honing your tools to improve your design expertise.
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