Andy from Webcrunch

Subscribe for email updates:

How To Become A Better Designer
Portrait of Andy Leverenz
Andy Leverenz

September 11, 2015

Last updated November 5, 2023

How To Become A Better Designer

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor was any designer on this Earth. Face it, becoming a professional designer takes time, patience, and tons of practice. Becoming better happens only by learning from mistakes or hurdles you have to jump over as you progress in your career. Every designer starts out creating shitty work. It’s natural. Being judged and knit-picked by others is what makes us designers strive for more and as a result, become better designers.

10,000 Hours

10000-hours Photo credit Startup Stock Photos
It is said around the design community that to be a good designer you have to have upwards of 10,000 hours under your belt. I don’t particularly agree with this theory as everyone is different and there are the way too many variables that distinguish one designer from the next. To me, being a good designer is being a good problem solver. As no problem is usually the same, nor should it be the solution.

10,000 hours doesn’t make you anything other than a little more experienced. Being experienced isn’t always a good thing especially in the web design and development industry. New technologies and advancements are being announced daily which limits the rate to which one can have knowledge.

To get better, I would propose to finding something you think you’re good at and working on bettering it. Finding your niché is what makes you a good designer as you are perceived by your peers to be superior in that regard.

Social Proof

Even good work sometimes starts to get a bad rap for looking the same all the time. Something to keep in mind.

Don’t believe me? Take Dribbble for instance. How many designers post shots on this site that all look the same or have the same context in their work? Go ahead and explore some random user’s profile. I’ll wait...Pretty much all of them have the same kind of look or feel, right?

No single designer can be good at everything. Understanding your weaknesses allow you to better understand your strengths and let go of the fact that you can’t win them all. This is what makes you a better designer.

We wouldn’t have job titles like web designer or print designer or even publication designer if it didn’t entail niching out a specific design style.

Being Judged

I went to design school and regret it for the most part. I won’t go into the mundane details, but for me, I noticed the teachings were out of date as well as the technology. Despite my poor experience with it, I can still say I learned a few things that you would rather learn with classmates than in the real world.

Having your work judged is probably the most important step in progressing as a designer. Doing this in a classroom setting is a little easier because it’s not only you getting judged, it’s the entire class. Hearing open and honest feedback my make you feel like shit but it also sparks a fire inside to become better at it.

Seeing other people's work, good or bad, compared to your own tell the truth as to whether you spent a lot of time on a piece or just rushed through it. This applies everywhere, not just in school.

Being able to accept feedback good or bad is a great way to accept whether or not your work is worth a crap. If you can’t accept this judgment you can bet you’re probably going to not make it in the real world.

Let people judge your work hard. I can tell you from experience that it will only make you better.

Try, Try Again

try-try-again | Photo credit Startup Stock Photos

Even good designers have steps they take to find a good solution to any project they are working on. Sketching out ideas is usually a first step in coming up with a unique way to solve a design decision. In this step, there are likely a massive amount of terrible ideas that you try to make sense of, but in the end, realize they are just garbage. This process happens until you finally find what it is you’re looking for.

A lot of good design happens on a whim. Ideas come to you subconsciously during unrelated activities like going for a walk or shopping for groceries at your local market. How many ideas have you heard of being jotted down on a cocktail napkin? It seems to me like you have to distract yourself before you can better yourself. Not a lot of great ideas are spawn from a designer forcing themselves to sit at their desk.

When you fail you learn from it. Being able to accept failure is what makes a lot of people successful. Many businesses or projects are born as a result of one or many failures. The key factor is to keep trying. Each failure is a new piece of knowledge you can use to avoid making future mistakes. Eventually, the path you take ends up being the successful one and all the hard work you’ve put into your project is way more rewarding.

Key Takeaways

Becoming a better designer isn’t easy. It’s in fact, a very long and hard process. I myself, have been designing for over 7 years now and still fail often. I’ve come to accept failure and judgment and hope you can learn as well. It will keep you on course to the path you wish you take as a designer.

  • When you feel like you are practicing a lot, practice some more. It’s worth it.
  • Accept judgment and critiques from everyone. Consider it feedback to improve on for your next project. Be blunt and don’t sugar coat.
  • Niche out what you are best at. No one wants to hire someone with “Ok” skills. They want professionals who do really good work.
  • Failing is good. It may hurt and seem like you’re digging yourself into a whole but with failures tend to come successes.
  • Don’t give up.

What do you do to improve your design skills? Let us know in the comments

Link this article
Est. reading time: 6 minutes
Stats: 394 views


Products and courses