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How to get ahead as a digital creative in 2021 (8 tips for success)

This article was sponsored by our friends at Bannersnack—the best cloud-based design tool for digital creatives.

The design industry is like a living organism—always evolving and changing. At Bannersnack, we believe that staying ahead as a digital creative requires keeping up with trends while acquiring new skills.

Like many other things, 2020 surely changed how designers work and collaborate. This got us thinking: How can digital creatives stay ahead of the game and set themselves up for a successful year?

Below is our best advice to help you (and your career) thrive in 2021.

Collaboration And Creativity Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

1. Learn to work with new tools

Think of three words that defined the work environment in 2020. I would say change, adaptability, and online meetings.

If 2020 taught us something it’s that almost anything has a solution. You just have to find that solution or learn how to create one yourself.

The same goes for the graphic design industry. As a graphic designer, it’s extremely important that you stay up to date on what’s new or popular in your niche, and find ways to adapt your skills sets to stay relevant.

This will help you understand the industry trends and what is needed to thrive in your career. Besides, if you discover a hot new tool that everybody starts to use, you’ll know where to shift your focus.

Even if you simply want to add some extra knowledge to what you already know by learning to work with new tools, that’s great as well.

Either way, learning to work with new tools is a win-win for you because you also get the added benefit of beefing up your resume with an extra skill set.

How To Make A Poster Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

2. Create as often as you can

Sometimes, creativity comes to you when you’re working and not contemplating. So, to keep your mind fresh and creative, try designing something every day—whether it’s for work, a side project, or just for fun.

You never know when inspiration will strike, and you might just end up creating a masterpiece.

Also, try to avoid working on projects that don’t bring you joy or that you don’t want to include in your portfolio. Get involved in projects that you’re passionate about and challenge you. This will help you avoid burnout, too.

Bannersnack elements by Anita Molnar

3. Use failure & criticism as a catalyst

Not everyone will praise your work, but don’t let this discourage you. Learning to embrace criticism is one of the best ways to improve as a creative. Turn your fear of failure into fuel and use it to improve your work, explore what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.

The best advice someone can give you is to get out of your comfort zone. Yes, maybe today someone told you that your design isn’t what they wanted, but you’ll know better tomorrow.

Keep experimenting, working, and be patient with yourself—Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And remember: when you choose something that excites you and challenges you at the same time, it doesn’t matter if you don’t excel at it from the start. Your curiosity and passion will keep you going.

Keep Calm Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

4. Work on your management skills

As a creative professional, your everyday tasks can be diverse, especially when you’re managing multiple projects or clients. Designing is part of that process, but not the entire thing.

That’s precisely why working on your management skills is a must. The easiest way to do this is to create a few productive daily habits and stick to them.

Make a daily to-do list that includes work hours and leisure. Try to allot time for each activity, but allow yourself a few extra minutes for each of them, in case not everything goes according to plan.

Checking things off of your list at the end of the day will give you the confidence boost you need to start work the next day. Not to mention, it’s helpful because you can actually keep track of the tasks you need to work on.

In the long run, honing your management skills will help you work more efficiently.

Creative Collaboration Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

5. Learn to value yourself & your work

By evaluating yourself and your work, you’ll know what truly deserves your attention. Sometimes you have to say no to new clients or projects if you don’t think that they’ll benefit you in the future.

Think of this as a necessary skill because knowing where you want to be as a designer will help you understand what to focus on right now.

Ask yourself if something is worth having in your portfolio. If the answer is no, so should be your reply to the new project opportunity.

Elements and Principles of Design Illustration by Anita Molnar

As a designer, you need all of the inspiration you can get. This is where design trends can help.

It’s good practice to follow design trends when you want to create something safe, familiar, or hip. The downside is that trends come and go, so chances are that you’ll end up with something that won’t be as relevant one year from now.

Keep up with graphic design trends, but don’t let them dictate your entire work.

Lines In Design Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

7. Use social media as one of your online portfolios

A portfolio is a must when you’re in the design industry.

Besides your official design portfolio, you’ll also want to establish an online presence on social media to showcase your work.

A good option to consider is Instagram because you have the ability to curate an eye-catching Instagram feed.

So remember, never underestimate the power of a strong social media presence. It will help your future clients or employer find your work and determine whether they want to hire you.

Instagram Feed Ideas Illustration by Gyöngyi Balogh

8. Learn about the psychology of interaction design

As a designer, it’s essential to understand how people interact with designs, especially when creating a product that aims for a great user experience.

The best way to learn about this is to study a bit of human psychology and how people respond to different types of design.

With this information, you’ll be better equipped to anticipate and build something around user needs.

Every individual is different, but if you’re able to understand the basic principles of psychology and the human brain, you can make better decisions in the design process.

Try to ask questions that give you answers on how to combine aesthetics with a design’s functionality. Where the answers can’t fill the gaps, your understanding of human psychology should step in.

Personal branding illustration by Anita Molnar

Bonus tip: Explore different art fields

An excellent practice that will help you thrive is to explore different art fields and expand your horizons.

Not only will this help you gain more knowledge around art, but it can also be a tremendous source of inspiration. You might even discover a new form of art to express yourself and maximize your talents.

Final thoughts

2021 will come with new challenges for designers, but with new challenges come new opportunities to learn and grow.

At Bannersnack, we’ve always been committed to helping creatives achieve great things with their designs, and we’ll continue to help them shine in 2021 as well. Follow us to see what we’ve got cooking up next.

Amalia Madalina Pop is a Content Marketing Specialist at Bannersnack. Passionate about content creation and all things cinematic. I love discovering anything that makes my eyes full of wonder. Favorite snack to eat during a movie? Olives.

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