Every Designer Sucks In The Beginning. Well, That’s Fine.

Last week, I went to Dribbble meet-up in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was looking forward to this event, simply because we don’t have much event for UI/UX/Product Designer here. I guess it’s the right time to catch up with everyone who are working in the same field.

The meet-up had “Designing for Startup” as the topic with two local speakers. Both nailed their presentation; they humbly shared their stories, all the struggles, and processes.

One of the speakers, Richard Fang, shared how he made a mistake in his first web design job. He gave deliverables in Adobe Illustration files to a front-end developer. His background was design printing, so Fang always made a design in Adobe Illustration. In the end, he had to convert all his work to Photoshop.

Richard Fang, CEO of Weekend Inc

Fang laughed when he told that story and so did the whole room. But I believe when he went through the process, it was not as fun.

Sure, that sucks.
Yes, we all suck in the beginning. All of us. It’s a common and natural thing that we have to face. The most important is, don’t let it get you down.

It’s not easy, but I realized throughout my process, here are some things that have helped me:

A good friend, leader or mentor

Whether you work in a startup, agency, or some other place, you always need to find someone to learn from. Find out how they manage the processes, how they overcome the struggles, anything. It could be from your bosses, managers or co-workers.

That would be great to find a good leader who can be your mentor. Someone who cares about you and your personal development.

Someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader)

If you can’t find one, be like a sponge wherever you work. Absorb all the knowledge and disciplines.

If you choose to be a lonewolf (freelancer), find a local community or meet-up, where you can start making new friends. The more, the merrier. You can listen and share stories with them, which will surely broaden our knowledge

Some local designer meet-ups in Indonesia:


One of the best investment of your time is reading. The internet nowadays really helps us to learn anything from anyone around the world. We can learn the process from case studies that people share, tips and tricks, stories in Medium or any design blog.

Reading allows us to find something new that we didn’t know before. It’s like revealing something new so that we can try a different approach to expect a different and better result.

“Stay foolish, stay hungry” — Steve Jobs
Reading by Lou Levit

Some of the resources you can learn from:

Case Studies
Dejan Markovic : http://dejan-markovic.com/
Peter Smart : http://50problems50days.com/
Ehouse Studio : http://www.ehousestudio.com/work/twelve-south
Focuslab : http://focuslabllc.com/our-work/500px

Julie Zhuo
Nick Babich
Tobias van Schneider
John Saito
Luboš Volkov
Jessie Chen
Mybridge Design
Pablo Stanley
Joanna Ngai
Facebook Design


Design Sprint (GV) by Jake Snapp
Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
Designing Products People Love
Rework by Jason Fried
Change by Design

If you have any recommendation, feel free to drop it on comment section.

Take time & troubleshoot the right problem

My first client didn’t pay me at all. He was mad at me because the work didn’t meet his expectation. I didn’t have enough argument. At that time I didn’t ask for deposit or downpayment, just because it was my first time and I needed that job.

That was my terrible time, and I felt that working in web design was difficult, especially in dealing with the clients.

I foolishly thought to stop being a designer at that moment. I started thinking that my work is not good enough to handle a client’s project.

I realized that sometimes when we are down, most likely, we can’t see anything clearly. We spot everything as a problem, big and severe.

A man work with Macbook by Andrew Neel

Yes, we fail on a project, but that doesn’t mean we can’t manage anything. Find the exact reason why we fail. Take a moment and disconnect from all the problems and your work if you need to.

Once you come back, don’t be afraid to use a different approach for your new client. Serve better than before.

Learn, fix and iterate.

Just remember, everybody, every designer, sucks in the beginning. Don’t worry! Enjoy all the process.

I understand, it’s easy to say “just enjoy” the process when we are not in the tough time. Well, I believe sh*t doesn’t always happen. It sometimes happens, just to let us learn about something. It doesn’t happen with no reason.

I have been in the game for almost 7 years. I am so grateful that I could pass every season. I can still remember all the sh*ts that happened in the past, but all those tough process helps and supports me wherever I am now.

Sunrise by Jordan Mcqueen
“There’s always light after the dark. You have to go through that dark place to get to it, but it’s there, waiting for you. — Han Nolan”

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— Thanks!

Last but not least, thanks to Kejora HQ as the event organizer and Richard Fang + Monika Halim as the speakers.