10 More Steps to Becoming a Great Designer
Laura Seargeant Richardson
An open letter to the next generation of designers, part II.
1. Never stop learning
While I use most of my projects as learning vehicles, I find that this isn’t enough. You should never stop learning. What would you learn and how would your view change if you went to 1,000 meet ups? As designers, our minds need to be as flexible as possible. Learning something new helps us see more and more possibilities and make connections that previously weren’t there.
2. Be naïve (and believe in two-headed cows)
I was voted most naïve in high school; as a designer, that means I believe anything is possible. That ability to suspend our disbelief is key to innovation and design. I remember a co-creation session with teenagers and their ideal group game. Somehow the topic of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory came up and the idea of lickable walls. Rather than discard that idea as ridiculous, the alternative is to use it is a catalyst for design possibilities. We use this type of thinking in our frogTHINK ideation as provocation. What do you believe is definitive and what would you gain from pretending it wasn’t? The only limits are in our minds.
3. Develop a personal brand
You may think this goes without saying, but I’m not talking about merely having a blog. Instead, you need to really understand who you are and what you bring as a designer. My favorite example of this is from an interview candidate we’ll call TC. TC knew what her abilities were, her best strengths, and her ideal roles not simply from knowing herself, but by asking 55 people the following questions, “What three adjectives would you use to describe me?” “Which of my skills provide the most value to an employer?” and “Finish this statement, ”TC, you should be…” The results were included in the back of her portfolio. Knowing yourself from others’ viewpoints will help you clarify your direction and help sell yourself to prospective employees.
4. Trust yourself
Know you are good enough now. If you don’t trust yourself, no one else will. This doesn’t mean be a prima donna, but it does mean that your opinions matter and your viewpoints are extremely valuable. Your design process, your design thinking and the embodiment of that (the end product) is your voice. Use it. I am most impressed by junior designers who reach out and ask for my input or opinion because just the act of reaching out speaks volumes—it is risky. Remember, if you don’t reach your hand out, there will never be anyone to grab it.
5. Get incredibly comfortable speaking
Join Toastmasters if you must (one of our creative directors did). Designers must constantly be able to promote their ideas—whether on an internal team, to a client, or on the podium. When I run through a presentation, I generally visualize the entire presentation in my mind. You need to get incredibly comfortable with the articulation of, the presentation of and the defense of ideas. I would also recommend improv training because nothing ever goes as expected.