It’s that time of the year! Tons of design grads are leaving school to enter the creative workforce for the first time. If this is you, maybe you’ve already got a job lined up or are just starting to send in applications. Either way, we know it can be nerve-wracking starting this new, exciting chapter in your career, and in your life!
With this in mind, we’ve collected some words of wisdom from a handful of established designers. Being as experienced as they are, they have loads of insights to share and genuinely want to see you succeed. Whether you’re a design school grad or a self-taught designer ready to enter the workforce, let these designers help guide the way:
1. Don’t stop learning
Stay open to lifelong learning and be curious about things outside of design. Change is the only constant in life and design. As you learn and grow, make sure to give back to the community.
2. Seek inspiration in unexpected places
When looking for inspiration, go analog. If you’re looking at other design agencies and graphic design blogs, you’re not doing anything innovative. Instead, you’re being referential and contributing to the sea of sameness. On your next branding, web, or product design project, I would challenge you to avoid the internet for ideas. Open a magazine, read a book, revisit art history, go to a museum, survey architecture, or simply talk to people. Sometimes, you need to look back to move forward. Be brave and have the courage to start looking for inspiration outside the source.
3. Stay true to your values
As a new generation of designers, you inherit great responsibility in the future of our industry. Soon you’ll bring your core values and expectations to the workplace. Stay true to those values. Our industry often offers products that aim to make the world a better place. Remember that you have the power to set your work environment to these same standards. Create a workspace that reflects the world in which you wish to live in. Be an advocate for diversity. Stand up for equality. Welcome multiculturalism as the pillar of success and happiness at work. You are the new workforce, and you have an immense opportunity—the opportunity to move our industry forward.
4. Create a process
One piece of advice to recent grads who are just getting started in the Product Design or UX/UI business would be to create a process that makes it easy for people to begin working with you. This process will depend on whether you’re looking for a full-time design role, freelance work, and will also depend on whether you want to work on-site or remotely. You need to spend the time figuring out how you want to design your life as a designer and then create a process around that. It gives you a framework so you can say yes to the right projects.
5. Grow at your own pace
Don’t rush to land your dream job, and don’t be hard on yourself if your peers seem to be more successful than you. It’s okay to take it slow and build relationships and skills over time. You don’t really know what you want and where you’ll excel until you’ve been in the trenches for a few years.
6. Actively build community
As someone who transitioned to design later in my career, I found by reaching out to other designers who I admired was the best way that I could learn. My advice to recent grads is to join design communities such as Dribbble, connect on LinkedIn, or setup quick coffee/call meetups. In my experience, most designers are extremely open to sharing and they often provide great insight. I still follow this advice today on my journey to become a better designer.
7. Cultivate your curiosity
Be a designer who is interested in something besides design. To be good at what you do every day and to keep nurturing your creativity and love for design, have side projects. Find things you are truly passionate about or do things differently in your daily routine. Travel whenever possible, create every day, disconnect from technology once in a while, and connect with people often. You’ll come back to design more inspired, with a broader and more eclectic skill-set, making you a better, more atypical and adaptable asset. And, you will always be needed somewhere!
We hope this advice helps guide you in the right direction and reminds you of what is important as a designer. You’re going to do great and we can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you accomplish!