5 Habits Being a Designer Will Teach You

Designing is a challenging and endless learning journey! You have to learn certain techniques and skills to be a designer but the job itself gives you plenty of life-changing habits. Here are a few habits that I have become aware of throughout my humble and limited experience.

  1. Attending to details

My first official graphic design job for college dining service was the first time I got to work with a marketing manager. As a self-taught designer, I was striving to work and learn simultaneously. Gradually my attention was intuitively drawn exclusively to colors, shapes and layout — the first impression, and I was terrible at proof-reading. I am grateful for my first manager, who was so kind and patient to pick out every single extra space, misplaced comma and inappropriate hyphen from my design. The anxiety of having to go back to your source file just to add a period taught me the habit of scanning for the little things. The terror of having that unacceptable typo printed on my beautifully designed piece of art pushed me to grow out of my flaws. But I realize that I cannot playing two roles, the designer and the proof-reader, at the same time. I would need to take my eyes and mind off the screen for a few minutes, refresh my brain and get back to playing my own boss.

2. Self-Criticism

It is a common belief that designers possess some kind of natural talent. I believe that to have talent is to constantly seek perfection and beauty, sometimes also meaning to continuously to spot out the bad apples, and to work hard towards achieving that. These two habits come in handy and push artists to practice their crafts. As an amateur designer, I have rarely or never been satisfied with my work, even though there could be good stopping points to meet deadlines. I believe the same thing is true for veteran designers (to some extent), whose first drafts of work can easily impress the general audience. Why is this habit closely related to designing? Because like any artist, visual designers learn a lot from watching the masters’ work. There is always a high standard to look up to, which can only be achieved by long hours of practice.

3. Taking feedback positively and proactively

I do not mean taking positive feedbacks alone. There are negative feedback, positive feedbacks and constructive feedbacks — I have learnt to identify them and get the best out of them. When people, non-designers, think something is wrong with my work, it is my job to find out why (So they don’t like the color orange…maybe it’s because the blue has too much saturation?) Every feedback is an opportunity to re-evaluate and iterate. I find it a good habit to include in my journal others’ feedback. By writing it down, I don’t take it personally, but instead see myself, my skill, or even my personality as an independent object that needs renovation. After all, people only give feedback when they care, either about you or about the arts, and it’s definitely a good thing in both cases. Taking feedback is a very critical habit, especially for amateurs like myself!

4. Archiving and reflecting on your work

For me personally, I would not want to look back at certain memories in the past (Except when you have to share embarrassing moments during an ice-breaker!) But there is an important reason to keep a portfolio and look back at your previous work: to reflect on your improvements. Just like one should not repeat the same mistake twice, in a more extreme version, designers should not repeat themselves at all. It is a designer’s job as well as motivation to seek evolution in their portfolio in all depths and directions. This habit also means telling oneself to accept that you were clumsy once, and today’s great piece of work would be nothing compared to what you can do a year from now.

5. Appreciating beauty

As a designer you know beauty does not just happen out of the blue. While some people seem to have more innate aesthetic taste then others, they actually have been practicing their craft by observing, noticing and appreciating for a longer period of time. From my perspective, appreciating beauty for designers does not mean expressing one’s enjoyment and giving generous praises. It means being excited about the mechanics behind beauty, acknowledging the efforts have been invested, and probably trying to recreate it (which is different from stealing!). I suppose that’s the reason behind the act of “rebound” on Dribble.com. One of the best way to complement an artist is to tell him/her “Your work is a masterpiece and I want to learn from it.”

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