Becoming a graphic designer is achievable, becoming a great graphic designer is a challenge. This is a job that most people run after because it gives you a great satisfaction, both personally and materially. To become a great or even a good graphic designer it’s not enough to know how to draw and use some computer software – it’s so much more than that!
I’d like to talk today about what it takes to be a great graphic designer from a couple of points of view: a young newbie making it’s way in the business, someone looking for a job in this domain and a veteran who needs to improve in order to make it in this ever changing design world. The characteristics, attributes and qualities I’m going to talk about below can apply to all the categories I’ve stated above.
Here’s what it takes to be a great graphic designer:
1. Motivation. As a graphic designer, you must always be motivated and eager to learn. Things are changing rapidly, design methods and software are always updating so you need to stay up to date with everything moving in the industry. Deriving from this characteristic: have an inquisitive, curious and creative mind.
2. Talent. This is questionable by others. Let’s say that to become a good graphic designer you don’t really need talent, but to become a great graphic designer you really need some mother nature interventions. Even if you have a little talent, it can evolve and it can be supported by other important attributes.
3. Education. To be able to create rationally and correct, you need to have at least the basic knowledge in graphic design theory. In order to be a great graphic designer, you must get the best education available for you. Moreover, being qualified will help you land jobs more easily. Education will also help you achieve broad knowledge in contemporary design but also in art history.
4. Fantastic communication skills. Now I know that some “artists” are very introverted, they like to stay in front of the computer and just create, without anyone bothering them. As a graphic designer, you must be able to talk about your work, to explain why you made those choices and why do you think your design is good – not only with your colleagues, but also with your boss and your clients. So you need to:
- talk – try to be coherent, convincing, objective, be rational, give arguments.
- listen – allow your client to have an opinion too – it’s his money after all!
Communication plays an immense role in being successful in any type of work, but especially in the design business. Great communication skills can get you a project, it can win you a long term client, it can help you learn from the people around you and it can help you achieve greatness.
5. Bias towards being organized and managing priorities. As a graphic designer, you have a job that implies working with customers and being able to work within deadlines. You may often have to change priorities and think of ways to effectively use your time to meet deadlines and make your clients happy.
6. Multitask. And by multitask I mean being able to juggle multiple projects at a time, but in the mean time, to keep your focus on your final goals. We know that it would be ideal to be able to concentrate on one job without being distracted by some other tasks, but that rarely happens.
7. Client Oriented. Usually, you get a brief when it comes to doing a design project. Nevertheless, you still have to easily communicate with your clients to meet their specifications. You have to be patient, you have to get involved (to care about the project).
8. Self Honesty. It’s hard to be objective when it comes to your work. But if you really want to be the best and to create quality outcomes, you need to ask yourself some questions at key points during the project. Questions like: Is this the best I can do? Is this what the client asked? What can I do to make it better? How can I turn it into an out of the box concept? The questions may vary, but the purpose of them remains the same – to push you to go further and to give your best.
9. Learn to accept criticism. Being a creative field, some might not see the design the way you do and they may have something to add. Instead of getting upset about it, try to take the positives from the criticism – remember, this will help you create a better design and you have to admit that you don’t know everything.
10. Assertiveness and confidence. Your clients will see you as you see yourself. So if you lack confidence in yourself, your clients won’t trust you. The bad news is that you can’t fake confidence – you have it or you don’t. The good news is you can build it! You can do this by always asking for criticism, by thinking logically your design decisions, by being objective and brutally honest about your work, by developing good communication skills and by working hard. Be sure not to mistake confidence for cockiness though.
11. Network. Connecting with others will help you from many points of view: potential clients, notoriety, getting in touch with your fans, with fellow designers, exchanging knowledge. This will help you develop your communication skills. Join social networks, ask and answer questions on forums, get noticed.
12. Cultural awareness. Read all you can about graphic design. Read about how it manifests in other countries than your own, absorb what goes on in the environment around you, be understanding, emphatic, open and receptive with clients – don’t forget to listen.
13. Be yourself. Don’t pretend like you are more than you actually are – you may lack some skills and don’t know the immediate solve of a problem, just don’t pretend you know everything, because at some point you might bump your head in a wall and loose the trust of your client or your employee. Remember: being yourself will help you fit better in an organization.
14. Work ethic. Even if you think you are a creative guru, you’ve done your homework when it came to design rules and design history, you create artwork based on logical decisions, you can take criticism and correctly apply it, this doesn’t mean that you can get up at 12 every day, play around for a couple of hours and then check your emails and start working. You need to treasure your time, you need to organize, to make plans and to stick to them. I don’t think it will be the first time you hear this, but: if you want to be successful you need to work your ass off!
15. Respect & integrity. As a graphic designer you should have integrity in your work, in the way you treat your fellow designers, professionals, in the way you deal with the creative work of illustrators, photographers and you should have self-respect – so that others will respect you as well.
Below are a couple of more characteristics of a great graphic designer, check them out also:
– can-do attitude
– open minded
– attention to details
– problem solver
– team worker.
Do you know any other characteristics of a great graphic designer? Please complete the list with your thoughts.