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You need to be a better designer. Amazing, even.

Being an amazing designer isn’t just about producing the most incredible designs or innovative solutions to a problem. While design is undeniably your top priority, being a truly amazing designer requires striking a balance between design skills and professional skills. Why? Because that combination works to strengthen your reputation as a creative design expert—and a professional. To illustrate:

If a designer provides an innovative solution to a design challenge, but he’s a total tyrant about it, or can’t present the solution in a way that sways executives to put it into production, are they still a great designer?

On the flipside, if a designer can talk the pants off the CEO, but provides no actual design expertise or leadership and never delivers anything, are they an amazing designer?

In both of these instances, “probably not” is the answer, because ultimately, you need to be both of those people. See? Balance. Innovative, well-supported design choices coupled with professional acumen.

Unfortunately most designers (and professionals in general, let’s be honest) don’t come off the shelf with this particular balance of skills. They are learned, with much pain and suffering, over time.

I’m writing this series to save you some of that pain and suffering. Over the coming months, we’ll be discussing skills to hone, processes to develop, and what—besides your designs—you should be contributing to your job.

Here’s a sneak preview of what we’ll cover:

The designer’s toolkit

As a designer, you need to be much more than just a great visual communicator. You also need to be committed to growing and improving the company—and yourself. This means constantly learning: staying on top of industry trends, understanding the best ways to manage your team and stakeholders, and maintaining an impeccable brand image. The Designer’s Toolkit will cover what you need to know to be a better professional.

Look forward to articles on:

  • Apps every amazing designer needs (or needs to know about)
  • Working with design teams
  • Your excellence bar and how to maintain it

Managing your freelance career

We don’t all work a 9 to 5, and we’ve probably all freelanced at some point. Some even prefer it. If that’s you, you probably spend a ton of time managing stuff that’s not directly related to your design work, and that’s probably the hardest part of your day.

Here we’ll teach you about some of the stickier situations you deal with as a freelancer, like:

  • Getting paid
  • Hiring or firing clients
  • How to pick the right support service for your career level

How to work with design directors

Working on a team in which many people have creative influence can be challenging, especially if you have a design or creative director responsible for ensuring the brand story is being told. By learning to work with your design director, you’ll improve as a designer—and build a strong relationship with a very senior, very knowledgeable professional.

In this segment, we’ll try to demystify some of the common workday issues you might encounter and provide practical ways to attack those problems.

Some upcoming articles:

  • Do more than “the ask”
  • Filling gaps with productivity
  • Building a defensible point of view

Contributing more than design

Even though your job title might be “product designer,” design isn’t the only thing you have to contribute. You bring much more to the table (like innovative ideas, professional advice, style expertise, etc), and your boss/client is expecting you to deliver it all.

Knowing how to respectfully convey your professional opinion, new ideas, or thoughts on how your brand or client could innovate is an invaluable skill. We’ll be exploring these concepts in depth in this series.

Some upcoming articles:

  • Perceived value of you and your skills
  • Innovation, research, and reporting
  • The difference between good taste and negativity

We’d also love to know what you’d like to read! If you have any thoughts on what we should feature in this series, shoot us an email.

Author

Ben Jordan
Storyteller and Agent of Change. Lover of people and ambassador of good experience.

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