As a new designer, you might be asking yourself, “What do I need to know about the professional design world?” “As a young designer myself, I quickly found out that while the classes I had been taking had taught me a lot, they left out some crucial information. ” If you’re wondering what these secrets are, have no fear because I’ve uncovered the top five things you won’t learn in design class.
1. Know your worth
Coming up in the design game, it can be daunting at times to ask your client for money for your work. One thing many of my design peers and I struggle with is shaking the feeling that asking to get paid for your work is rude. It is not.
I recall a specific time where I was asked to design a logo for a friend. She asked how much it would cost and I froze—not wanting to offend her with a number too high or make her feel like I was slighting her. Eventually, I gave a number, and guess what—she paid it! She was happy with the work and is still one of my good friends.
Remember, your time and skills are worth payment, so do your research, know what’s reasonable for your design climate, and be fairly paid for your fantastic pieces. (Yes, even from your friends!) If you’re unsure of what to charge, I found a helpful tool by nuSchool that may be helpful to you, too.
2. Learn how to talk to people
I’ve discovered that a major aspect of design is knowing what your client wants, and giving them something they feel they need. You have to be able to communicate, not only over email, but in person; pitching ideas, brainstorming content, and debriefing on specific projects.
You also can’t be entrenched in a “know it all attitude.” Respect your client’s feedback, and be receptive and active to critiques and tweaks. Remember: “Good design is useless if it doesn’t match your audience’s goals. ” Make them believe in your vision and make your vision align with their goals.
3. Research more (and design in the wild)
As designers, we’re often too quick to go straight for the perfect idea or design. “Take a deep breath before creating…and research! ” Go to markets to find what other products or concepts similar to yours look like. Go to antique shops and take inspiration from the past. Peruse Pinterest to see what others are doing. Start a word chart to know what you want your work to feel like.
Sketch all the concepts that come to your mind, even if they are incredibly silly. Don’t go straight for the computer, conceptualize and brainstorm away from it. As one of my favorite designers Tad Carpenter said, “Quantity over quality, you can perfect later.”
4. Organize or else
I remember the first time I had a client ask to see a previous project I made for them, and I had lost the working file. I had to restart completely and they were not happy with the additional time it took. It was then that I learned the importance of proper organization.
Organize your files so they’re easily accessible, labeled, and can be transferred and understood by clients or collaborators. Also, saving a backup in Google Cloud or a good ol’ fashioned thumb drive never hurt anybody.
5. Be a well-rounded designer
I know we don’t love every program, but a good designer should be able to use all platforms to their advantage. Sometimes clients will need a simple Photoshop clean up, sometimes a vectorized logo, sometimes a publication, even possibly animation at times. Knowing how to use all these programs makes you that much more marketable.
The design world is full of new lessons and things to learn all the time. If you have some lessons that you learned outside of the classroom, let me know what they are in the comment section below!