What makes a great designer? Is there some secret formula? Where is that sweet 5-step process to becoming a killer designer? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no such formula. However, when I study and watch successful designers, I see common qualities. Working at a creative agency has proven to me that there are eight qualities of a great graphic designer.
A great designer is…
1. Always Learning
Who likes to be told how to do something better than or different from the way we were taught? Usually, we start to short-circuit and lose our cool. But what if they’re right? What if that Photoshop trick saves you three hours of production time?
Many great designers started out very humble. They became sponges and took it all in. They took notes and tried new things. They were receptive and grew because they listened to the people around them. There wasn’t an attitude of pride or arrogance, but a conscious decision to be humble, to be teachable.
2. Able to Take Criticism
When I was in college, like many art students, I had to sit through critiques. My professor would group us all together around our lovely design work and just go to town on what was right and wrong about every single design. Then, she would open up the floor for all of us to chime in on each other’s work. You know what happened? (insert cricket noise here) Silence. I mean it…dead silence. No one wanted to give any kind of criticism! I was just as petrified to speak up as the next guy. It was bad enough taking in all the criticism; why in the world would I want to dish it out?
Criticism is a tricky thing. As a designer, we must learn that when our work is under criticism there’s no need to take it personally. There’s no reason to get defensive and make up lame excuses. Be receptive and open-minded.
3. Constantly Looking for Inspiration
How do you start your day? We all have our rituals. One of the things I do as soon as I get to work is visit three to five websites full of design inspiration. Rarely have I met a talented designer that does not practice the same habit. You must be exposed to what’s going on in the design world. I’m constantly looking at what is getting noticed and talked about in the design world so that I can apply the same professionalism to my work. I can also keep an eye on what the current design trends are and where they are going. Keeping a pool of design inspiration has also proven helpful. When I start a project, I can go back to it and find inspiring design work that I’ve saved to help kick start my creative process. Check out what inspires us on our post What Moves Us: Design Inspiration Vol. 1.
4. Out of the Comfort Zone
Ask any successful designer and they’ll tell you they were willing to learn and explore new design tricks. It’s hard! I get that. However, how will a designer ever grow or learn if they’re never pushed beyond their limits? Almost every day, I am confronted with a design problem and I think to myself, “OK, they never taught me this in school, what in the world am I supposed to do?”
Fear can get the best of us. It can cripple us. Get out of your comfort zone, learn and then just try.
In this day and age, it’s so easy to learn new tips and tricks. Take advantage of the vast knowledge that is out there. Listen to your colleagues around you and don’t let fear stop you from creating amazing things.