Starting Out in Design

Kojo Gyan
Kojo Gyan
Sep 5, 2020 · 4 min read

Knowing this helped me rise up fast in the industry

A hilly landscape with a road leading towards a sun set
Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash

There are many self dignified reasons for starting out in the design industry. I simply wanted a job when I was in engineering school so, I joined an advertising agency on campus. I had great ideas and I wanted to show them. Also, telling someone, ‘I am a designer’, seemed pretty cool to me. That was five years ago. Ever since then, I’ve self-taught and gotten better at what I do. Meeting Chris Do, Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister and Aaron Draplin, some of my design idols in person is among the highlights of my journey. Besides that, I have started a design studio and collaborated on projects with pretty huge global brands across various fields. I have expertise in graphic design, fashion, photography, Motion graphics, 3D Modelling, coding and I currently work as a User Experience Designer. These are some lessons I’ve picked up on my journey so far.

1. It’s a level playing field, people are moving forward, and everyone behind them is also moving forward. Keep that image in mind.

Starting out in design like in any other field can be a bit overwhelming. The mere existence of individuals who have achieved greatness can make one get cold feet. On the other hand, their existence and work, could be a source of inspiration. A promise, if I could put it that way, that constant practice can take you from the point you started to wherever you want to get to. Practice is movement, and it’s very possible to rise and even surpass the highest perceived level of expertise if you’re diligent in your undertaking. It’s key to develop an ideal image of who you want to become, focus on yourself, and keep moving forward.

2. The day you show your creation to the world is the day you should let go of it. Detach yourself emotionally from it, and you’ll be able to handle criticism objectively.

In the early days of a creative person, the likelihood of being berated for your design knowledge or your ‘subjective’ creative solution to a problem is very high. Confidence is usually low, hence, the way a designer handles criticism could define his/her creative trajectory.

Most creative people I know; myself included, sometimes seek external validation for their creation. It’s a dangerous game and in the free society we live in, it’s no mystery how that could be a problem. It’s quite ironic how we create from a place of self-love and self-belief yet seek approval from the outside world. People-pleasing is real. It breeds comparison, insecurity, creative blocks, fear, excitement, self-pity, hopelessness, and depression. These are counterproductive emotions which if not managed effectively, could be harmful to your design career.

Options are, you could hide your identity and create satiric pieces of art to challenge social customs, or own up, create and reveal your art because you want to. Or, you could live forever, stuck after few creations, and seek approval from the world. It’s crazy out here. The pressure can get immense. The fallacious label of being the best is usually short-lived and those who take a fall from it are those who dwell in it.

It’s enough to just keep moving in a forward direction without competing with anyone. And, of course, there is no need to compare oneself with others. Progress and competition are mutually exclusive. Though the distance covered and the speed of movement differ, there is a level moving and playing field for everyone. As put forth in the book, The courage to be Disliked, ‘The pursuit of superiority is the mindset of taking a single step forward on one’s own feet, not the mindset of competition of the sort that necessitates aiming to be greater than other people. ‘

There are multiple outcomes when you publish or post your work. People could like it, hate it, or say nothing about it. Be at peace with this.

3. Control your validation. Get better at what you do. Don’t present work if it is not up to your standard. Only present work you fully believe in. This is key to building confidence.

Feelings of inferiority are something everyone has. Keep in mind that you don’t only get one chance to make an impression. Own your work even if you don’t believe in it but have to present it, don’t wait for perfection.

To get good work you have to learn to get an education. Learn the craft from professionals in the industry or skilled teachers alike. If you feel your work is not good enough, strip it down, one layer at a time till you find the problem. This is the art of directing one’s self and it’s a valuable skill you get to build.

True confidence comes from within. ‘Am I the best I can be?’ or ‘is there room for improvement?’. Pick a field and build your house on it. Choose a key competency. Repetition and focus build confidence and expertise. Don’t just glide on the surface.

All these lessons aside, becoming a designer is an exciting and worthwhile journey with amazing experiences promised if the right steps are taken. It’s possible and I wish you well.

Curious

Kojo Gyan

Written by

Kojo Gyan

User Experience Designer | Sharing my design philosophies and craft.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Kojo Gyan

Written by

Kojo Gyan

User Experience Designer | Sharing my design philosophies and craft.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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