Over Dribbble’s past 12 years in the design community, we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with all levels of creative professionals, from hobby illustrators to freelance graphic designers, and specialists of all sorts. Providing a hub for what is quite possibly the broadest range of projects from web to mobile, illustration to UI/UX, graphic design to game design, and user research to product design, our users have a ton of experience.
No matter what type of design work you do, check out some common threads and strategies that help some of the best creative professionals continue to succeed and grow.
“What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a designer?”
Well, the answers did not disappoint. As tips and insights from one designer to another, these pointers will prove useful for anyone looking to understand the design process more deeply or to be a better collaborator with designers moving into next year. Current design jobs and responsibilities vary greatly across industries, so keep in mind what’s applicable and keep the rest in mind for future projects.
And now for the good stuff…
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Imposter syndrome is real and, in an industry that is so driven towards utility and perfection, at times can be hard to avoid.
Remember that the designers you look up to and follow online likely have more experience or completely different experience than you do.
If you’re big into design social media, your work might (unintentionally) exist in an echo chamber of designers in similar industries, working on similar projects. Try to follow new accounts, seek out external influence, and look for inspiration outside of your immediate design circle.
2. You can never do enough research.
The best designers spend most of their time learning about the problem, people, and opportunities. Surprisingly, little design time is needed when the proper research points you in the right direction. Work with an internal or external team, or practice conducting proper design research yourself. Mentors can be a great help when it comes to methodology.
Without conducting or consulting research for design projects, utility can become skewed and your team won’t know why, how, or what to do to fix it.
And remember to design for your users, not other designers. These two groups have and always will be separate. There are a limited number of companies creating products by and for designers, but most designers will always be designing for non-design folk.
3. Design is a collaborative process.
The product of the process of design is seldom meant to be used or enjoyed by a single person, so why should the process be any different? If you’re not working with your team and your users, you’re designing against them.
Of course, keep in mind that it’s impossible to please everyone, so if your designs have ticked the major boxes and all that’s left is preference be flexible.
4. There’s value in the valleys.
You’ve probably heard that you can’t have the highs without the lows. The same applies to design; there’s value in the valleys. Continue to ride the wave when you want to call it quits and you’ll stumble upon some of the best ideas you’ve ever had.
If you’re in a hole, keep digging and you might just strike gold! 💎
5. Communication is everything.
Designers must be able to explain their ideas, thought process, and work clearly and convincingly. Every design element should be thoughtful, but if there is no discussion surrounding the information in every phase of the design process, projects can quickly start to deteriorate.
Communicate every step of the way with your team, organization, and end-users.
6. They can’t all be gems.
Let’s face facts. Not every project will be your best project, and that’s totally okay. In fact, even projects you’re most passionate about may not be your best projects. Sometimes you’re just not “in the groove” but don’t let it get you down. All writers get writers block, all athletes have bad games, and all designers face design challenges.
7. Take care of your mental health.
Ok, so this one was really phrased as “don’t cry”; we can all empathize with that one.
Chances are, if you’re passionate about what you do, design work will probably make you cry at times. But your work shouldn’t be so frustrating ALL the time. If you feel like crying about work more often than not, it’s time for a change.
8. Practice makes perfect.
A tip from kindergarten that we should never forget. In design, it is important to iterate, test, and present to final users… more than once! Designers should always be learning. Whether you’re practicing a new technique/style or exploring a relevant industry software, there’s always space to grow.
9. Never underestimate the importance of a good brief.
This might seem obvious, but please, read the brief. Then read it again, this time slowly. Feel free to contact your design lead, your boss, or your client if the brief is unclear. Get those questions out of the way before you’ve wasted hours, days, or weeks of work. Read the brief whenever you’re unsure of the next steps, and ALWAYS read it whenever you think you’re “done.”
10. Have fun!
You may disagree, and it might seem cheesy to say, but this is probably the most important tip. We certainly don’t all have the luxury of working our dream jobs every day, but having fun with whatever work you’re doing right now sure is a lovely thing to do.
Positive thinking, higher levels of wellbeing, and better mental health are linked to fun. It’s no secret that happy people are healthier, more inspired, and more productive in their jobs.
There are countless applications of design regardless of what you’re creating. Use these design tips to guide you through the ups and downs of the creative process. What tips would you add to this list?