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How to maintain a level head and excel as a designer

This Tuesday marks my one year anniversary working as a designer at Precedent, and what a year it's been! I've drank copious amounts of coffee, listened to around thirty thousand different songs, met many inspiring people and worked with some amazing clients and colleagues around Australia. Looking back on what I have learnt so far about the industry and anticipating what my second year holds has been both daunting and extremely exciting. For any designer aspiring to work in the digital industry, here are a few of my personal top tips on how to get the best out of your experience!

Learn about your clients and their users.

User experience as a discipline was completely alien to me when I started working on my first project here. I had no idea how beneficial it is to any good piece of work. To be a good designer, you need to have a good idea of the context. The brief alone is as much use as a chocolate teapot. You need to know who your client is, who their users are and how your work is going to benefit all of the above. There is no point in the digital world to have something that looks beautiful, but doesn’t benefit the client due to their audience being confused by it.


When starting a design project, it is crucial to generate a good concept. We are all guilty at times to focus on a nice colour or interesting shape, however they’re no good if they have no real meaning or purpose to the design. The easiest way to kick off the concept for your design is to speak to your clients about their brand values, key words and imagery that represents their brand. From there, brain storm this further with your team. Kick ideas around. However strange or outlandish the ideas are, sketch and write them down. Even if people don't immediately understand exactly what it means, a good concept speaks for itself - the intentional shapes and ideas underneath will always take on an existence of their own. Concept-less designs don't have that kind of life...they just sit there.

Step away from the computer.

Being a “creative” doesn’t always come easy. Whilst at uni, I was a total night owl when it came to completing my Architecture coursework; often my best work was produced between the hours of around 9pm and 5am! Being in a conventional job, means conventional hours. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours each day and having to conceive ideas and designs you’re proud of takes focus and from my experience, trying to always nail it on the computer first when you’re limited to deadlines, frequent doesn’t work. Always start with sketches. Software and the parameters of a screen can limit your train of thought. Often when given a brief, you’ll already have an idea in mind of how you imagine the end product to look. Drawing, sketching and talking about ideas before you open Adobe will cultivate concepts you would never deemed imaginable if you were to skip this crucial step. If you’re really stuck, go for a walk, take a break to do something non-work related or even sleep on an idea. 9/10 times you’re overthinking things and the solution will come to you when you least expect it!

Discuss ideas.

As mentioned above, sometimes we get a ‘creative block’. You can be focused on something trivial that is driving you round the bend or even worse; nothing comes to you at all. The solution is to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and discuss your ideas (or lack of them!) with your colleagues. Design is subjective and everyone has a different perspective on how to go about solving a problem. More often than not a fresh pair of eyes has resolved many difficulties I have faced whilst designing. Communication is key.

Ask for help.

On my first day I was an hour early, I idiotically rocked up day one without a sketchbook and for the first fortnight I was too afraid to take a lunch break. . Despite all this, I am still employed! I would like to think that although my portfolio was appreciated during the interview stages, another attribute deeming me an employable candidate was my willingness to learn. During my first year in the studio I have been blown away at how much I have been taught and learnt in return. Asking questions is the best advice I can give anyone starting out in the industry. Even if a question may seem stupidly ludicrous, ask it. Chances are, you won’t be the only person who is wondering the answer and secondly you’ll often learn more than you set out to in asking it. Curiosity did not kill the cat, ignorance did.

Have confidence in what you know from the get go.

Many times over the last year, I have needed to discuss my ideas and concepts with both my peers and very important clients. It is very easy to assume the position of ‘I know nothing’ and expect that your Creative Director will do the legwork for you in these situations. A year after I’ve started and I still have days where I feel like I’m deceiving my Creative Director and that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. However, this is not true - you need to have confidence in your work, opinions and designs. If you didn’t know what you were doing, you wouldn’t have landed the job in the first place.