Last week, I posted One Year Out of Design School: 10 Valuable Lessons. This week I am following up with a list of indispensable insight that I’ve gathered over the last few years from a combination of sources including clients, designers, school, agencies and freelance work.
If a client immediately loves everything that you’ve done, there’s still room for improvement. It does occasionally happen and it’s the best feeling in the world when you receive positive affirmations based on something that you created. Though it is a huge ego boost, you’re not perfect. Get feedback from a few peers and then take it a step further.
If you work for yourself, find a surrogate art director. It’s awesome working at an agency because you usually have an art director at your disposal that can provide immediate feedback. But if you work at home and are left to your own devices, the outcome can be dangerous! Find someone that you can trust to give you brutally honest feedback. I am blessed that my boyfriend and my brother are both designers so I try to have them review my work before I send it out. Nine times out of ten, they have a suggestion that takes the piece from good to great.
Don’t take negative feedback too personally. If a client isn’t excited about what you’re presenting, ask for some honest, constructive feedback and build off of it. Clear up any misunderstandings, but don’t get defensive. After all, if they’re paying you, they’re entitled to an opinion. Stand your ground if you think that something’s not right but also listen.Take some time to process the information and then present a revision. If you’ve given it your best shot and are confident with the output but they still don’t like it, at least you have some peace of mind knowing that you did your personal best.
Winning new work is hard work. I’ve been incredibly lucky (my biggest clients including Forever 21 and Virgin contacted me directly) but this is not always the case. There will be times when you have to pitch against a handful of other designers and convince the client that you’re the best option. It may be tedious and lacking in compensation, but if you win the work, you’ll know that you’ve got something that the client wants. You’re officially the teacher’s pet for a fleeting moment!
Clean and simple does not equal boring. When I was first starting out, I felt that I needed to prove that I could design. This meant adding in extra flourishes, brushes and layers of things that, looking back, were totally unnecessary. As you get more comfortable with your style and receive more training through school, internships and jobs you’ll realize that there’s no need to shout from the mountaintops, “Look what I did!” The work will speak for itself.
Design that looks effortless is usually an illusion. You see something that looks so simple and think, “I could do that!” Then you get started and realize that it isn’t so easy. It takes some serious skills to get that effortless look! The colors, the kerning, the negative space and the type choices all contribute to the outcome.
Accept the fact that not everyone will like your work. Design is subjective and so are people’s opinions. I’ve had times where on the very same day, one viewer of my portfolio offered me work on the spot while another had a laundry list of changes that I should make. As long as you’re content with your output, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Remember that if you’re making everyone happy, then you’re doing something wrong.
Everything should have a purpose. More, more, more isn’t always better. Don’t add more elements just because. By adding, ask yourself what you’re you taking away.
Learn from those that came before you. Technology has dramatically changed the landscape of graphic design and the ‘old schoolers’ have so much to teach us! I’ve never had to use french curves or rub-on letters by choice. By watching established designers from previous generations use unique their skill sets and tools, it opens us up to a new way of thinking.
If you want to break the rules, you need to learn them first. This advice from a fellow designer is what made me decide to go to school for design in the first place.