This article is a part of . MEr’s personal experiences and knowledge sharing. We find it crucial to share our community members’ voices and personal stories. So our readers can learn something new, get inspired, and create unforgettable digital experiences. This month, Luka Zaric, a graphic designer, shares his story about learning about design.
Instead of dwelling on how I became a designer or telling a story that is equally uninteresting to you, how about, I tell you everything I wish I knew when I began to learn about design? I believe that would be far more interesting than if I were to tell you how art has always fascinated me, and how by the time I discovered graphic design, I was totally drawn to it. Right?
Truth be told, at the beginning of my career, I spent a lot of time waiting for inspiration to dawn on me. Back then, I firmly believed that if I watch hundredths of tutorials, it will automatically make me a better designer. With time, I found far better ways to learn about design, which helped me grow as a designer and ultimately propelled my career.
I hope that you’ll find some of my advice helpful when reinventing the way you learn about design.
To Learn About Design: Surround Yourself With Creatives And Thinkers
Meeting and hanging out with like-minded and creative people has significantly improved my confidence and creativity as a designer. The like-minded people can support your growth as an individual and professional, as they are most likely on the same path as you are. Other creative people you meet along the way tend to exchange new ideas, and more often than not, propel you in a whole new direction.
If a person is passionate about their field of work and has that hunger for problem solving, I automatically consider them a mentor. For me being a mentor has always been a two-way street. A mentor is someone I can learn from, but whom I could also teach something new. The focus should always be on the exchange of feedback, having discussions, and maybe even working on projects together.
The process of mentoring doesn’t necessarily have to happen in person, you can even do it online. There are a lot of subreddits, forums, Discord servers and other communities where you can meet other designers, get critiqued or praised, read about interesting experiences and learn something new.
I will always prefer having mentors and being a mentor rather than isolating myself and my work from others. Having a mentor or being one means being free to share your ideas and opinions with someone. Having a fresh pair of eyes that constantly provide you with feedback (positive and negative) helps you develop and improve your skills more naturally and efficiently.
Learn What You Love, But Also Study Everything Else
Learning about things you love is the most satisfying and rewarding feeling, but as designers, we must be prepared to learn pretty much anything that comes our way.
Understanding the basis of your client business, as well as understanding other fields and industries is crucial for your growth as a designer. Not only will you appear more professional and completely invested in helping your client with their project, but you might even have fun and learn something new along the way.
A few years ago I did some design for a trash bag company. To this day I’m still loaded with random trash bag fun facts, just in case it ever comes up in casual conversation.
The point I’m trying to convey is so often overlooked by budding designers. You’re not creating for yourself or other designers, but for your client’s target audience. In other words, while it is important that you like what you created, think about whether your design communicates your client’s message effectively and efficiently.
Take It Easy With The Tutorials
If there ever was such a thing as a Certified Psychologist solely for designers, we would all be diagnosed with tutorial addiction. What in the world did we do before tutorials?
You know what I’m talking about – 5 tips every UX designer needs to know, and so on. No, you definitely cannot and shouldn’t design a website “in less than 30 minutes” just because someone on YouTube encouraged you to do so.
In all seriousness, there are some incredibly helpful learning resources and courses on the internet. But from time to time we should ask ourselves – did I just watch a two-hour-long tutorial on how to paint a tree, instead of actually trying to paint a tree? Simply watching tutorials does not necessarily equal learning. Learning is applying, experimenting with, and sharing gained knowledge. Converting your knowledge into something valuable will aid you in better learning.
So the next time you are starting a task or a project, just try a different approach. Think about it. Sketch it out. Experiment with it. Show other people your work. And if you feel like you’ve come to a dead end – only then research it.
Try to solve the problem and find a solution without having to get inspired first. While there is nothing bad with researching how others have solved a similar problem, it might distort the perception you have and you’ll end up with a biased outlook on the project.
If You Want to Learn About Design (And Anything Else) Never Stop Asking Questions
I used to feel like I’m always boring the client, or making them uncomfortable by posing questions about their decisions and requests. Avoiding questions always leads to a lot of misunderstandings and too much time being wasted.
Asking good questions is fundamental for good design results. Being on the same page with the client will save you from a lot of headaches. Don’t be afraid you’ll sound stupid. Come prepared into every meeting and just ask away. Challenge the client. Change their opinion. Don’t be afraid to tell they’re wrong. Try to involve them in the process. Try your best to listen carefully and write things down.
Creating a successful project is impossible without proper communication. Learning how to communicate efficiently is a major step forward in your design career.
You Don’t Need To “Develop a Style”
Developing a particular art style might be beneficial for some painters or illustrators. But sticking to one style as a designer automatically limits your client base and your versatility as a creative person.
Imposing the same style on different projects is not what a designer is supposed to do. We should try our best to provide solutions and adapt to various types of projects and clients.
Using the same style over and over again must be the most boring thing I can imagine a designer can do.
Just don’t worry about it. Everyone has a style, and so do you. Your style is the way you make things. Style is just a natural result of gaining knowledge, applying said knowledge and tweaking it to your liking. The more you practice, the more your work quality will develop and improve. Over time it will grow to be recognizable without you even noticing.
Question Your Decisions
Have you ever been asked why you created something the way you do, and the only answer you could come up with was: “Because it looks nice?
Saying that feels a bit stupid, doesn’t it?
Learning how to describe your work and articulate your ideas is incredibly important in our line of work. Yes, some things can be explained just by using visual language, but a verbal or (at least) a textual explanation of our thought process is essential to the quality of our work and the way clients perceive us.
So while something you created might seem completely logical to you, what you’re seeing might not be immediately apparent to your client or a user. Think of what you are creating. Why is this button here? Why these colors, this typeface or this layout? How does it all blend together? Why does it look good or bad?
Constantly questioning your design decisions will not only improve the quality of your work, but thinking everything through will give you enough confidence to realise that the work you did is actually good and functional. Once you believe in your work, you’ll be even more confident and ready to “defend” it. This will not only allow clients to relax and trust you more, but a lot of time will be saved on both sides and this way you will avoid endless redesigns and corrections.
So check yourself before you wreck yourself. As a designer, of course.
That would be my advice if you wanted to reinvent the way you learn about design. In the meantime, work on your discipline. Fix your bad habits, one at a time. Keep a consistent sleep schedule so your brain can process all the information you learned. Read more. Take walks. Go on a hike. Sit straight. Drink more water. Go design.
If you want to learn more about Luka and his career, head over to his website lukapsd.me.