Back in early 2015 was the first time when I opened a program called Photoshop. Around a month later, I got my first freelance design gigs and decided to become a self-taught designer. Here’s what no one told be about being a designer.
I started designing pretty much by accident. I thought that Photoshop is something you learn years, designing is a superpower you’re born with and the whole world of this topic is what Wonderland was for Alice.
It took me around a week to realize: nope, that’s not it.
So what are the things I wish I’d have known before I started designing?
Being a designer is not always a piece of cake! Those are little bits and pieces from the whole time I’ve been doing all this. Some things I’ve learned because of great books, others because of the bumps along the way.
Overall: all this came to me with time.
Here’s the truth about being a designer
TRUTH #1: Anyone can be a designer
Oh, I see those dreadful looks some designers and creatives are pointing in my direction right now. But I’m totally sure that everyone CAN be a designer. A good one? Maybe. The best? No. Successful? Maybe.
You can learn everything. I mean, EVERYTHING.
Starting from Chinese, headstand and pancake cooking finishing with things like designing. I’m not so sure myself how I dare to say this when I still haven’t learned to cook pancakes myself… But I truly believe that any skill in the world can be taught.
How good you will be at it and how far you’ll get is all up to you.
I have to admit, there are several things that are important in whatever you’re learning… For example, your teachers. Whether it’s video, books, practice or mentor. Also, your existing skillset. Whether you’re a born artist, great storyteller or even… cook great those goddamn pancakes.
For some learning will take a shorter time than for others because of their great memory or strong visual skills. For others, it will be an experience full of fun and great memories. For some: the worst nightmare.
See what author of Bootstrapping Design had to say about this:
”Anyone can be a great designer with practice. It’s both at once liberating and frightening: your future as a designer depends only on how hard you’re willing to work. Design is a skill and a trade; you get better at it by practicing.”
Whatever is your road: you CAN learn everything if only you’re up for learning process. Therefore, yes, everyone can be a designer.
TRUTH #2: More you learn – less you know
The learning process is confusing. No, let me say it like it is. The learning process is CRAZY (confusing).
The design is a fast-moving field. Every day there’s someone who has come up with something new and it has all the potential to become the most popular and amazing thing in the whole wide world. To be a successful and up-to-date designer, you have to spot this thing before it has become the best thing ever.
Not only that. There are also people who create technologies and each day there are new features and new options for each technology out there. Since you’re a designer and, most likely, you’re designing for these technologies, you have to be on top of these news as well.
Besides that, there are tons of amazing designers, mentors and visuals who know loads of stuff. Many of them have written amazing books, some of them: more than one. You might want to read at least some… and then some more. Podcasts… blogs… tweets… Till you get to the point when you realize: they all have different standpoints, various opinions and, after all, they are working in various fields and with different people. So you soak up it all and feel like there’s no deeper sea to get sucked in than knowledge…
At some point. you will get so confused about what’s wrong and what’s right that you’ll get to the next point…
TRUTH #3: Practice (really) makes you perfect
Creating design and practicing as much as you can is the best way to go. It’s the only way you’ll find your own true voice, you’ll truly enjoy designing process (not learning, reading or anything else alike) & grow your skillset. You should learn and talk with people but that’s not even a close to being the base of being a great designer.
As we already found out, being a great designer comes from doing design. Therefore, you should grab more chances to do. As soon as any of those appear by your horizon – go-for-it!
If you don’t have many opportunities, you might be looking in all the wrong places. In the same time, you might just want to design for yourself for a while to explore your own voice.
TRUTH #4: Designing will drive you insane
You know all those funny photos about crazy clients, unbelievable feedbacks, silly requests, insane deadlines and tons of work to do? The funny thing about this: it’s all true.
When I was starting out, I was all like “I’ll have only normal clients“, “I’ll set & reach reasonable deadlines“, “I’ll work only with the designs I’ll love myself“.
Oh, my… If only that would ever be possible!
It all starts out small. With someone who asks for a quick, small design to create within a day. It continues with gazillion e-mails in your mailbox saying the silliest things you can imagine. For example, “Oh, sorry, did I wrote a banner? I meant landing page!”.
Late payments, problems with contracts, craziest, I mean, CRAZIEST requests with all THE WORST design solutions… It’s painful to even write about it!
We’d all live in a truly wonderful place if all the greatest designers could actually use their skills to design what they have imagined. For most of the times, designers are working for their clients, for other people imagination and thoughts. And it can drive insane even the toughest guys.
TRUTH #5: You’ll never get out of it
You might be thinking that your visual taste is a disaster, you have no drawing, illustration skills or any knowledge about colors, fonts, any visual hierarchy. But as soon as you start to get into design, there’s no way out.
The more you have the option to see great design, create it and work with it, the more you’ll see all those tasteless billboards, sad kernings, flopped ideas, horrifying advertisements with craziest color compositions and the worst fonts ever.
Once you become a designer or start to dive deeper into a world of design, you’ll have no way out of it.
You might change your career path but you can’t unlearn the skill itself.
All of these are just some of the things no one managed to warn me about being a designer. Anyhow, I am unbelievably happy this career found me and I’ve had my chance to grow and improve.
If the truth about being a designer doesn’t scare you and you’re interested in pursuing a freelance career, you can learn more in this post.