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5 Truths Of Being A Digital Designer

Design, Side HustleKrishna SolankiComment

I've been in the creative industry as a Designer for little over 11 years.  I graduated with a degree in Business Information Systems, and I only knew one thing. That I liked and enjoyed designing and developing websites. I found this out during my second year at university.  It all came down to one module, which I aced with flying colours. That led me to want to find an industrial placement related to designing and developing websites - which I did.  I then graduated and decided to teach myself how to hand code from scratch.  That was the start of my passion for branding and website design.

Over the years it became normal to read numerous blogs post about design and development, I started writing for an online magazine - Onextrapixel - where I wrote various articles about design.  I also had begun to share the design knowledge I gained and on social media, in particular, on Twitter.

I was a newbie to the industry when I started and I was a self-taught Designer.  With that in mind today I want to share 5 truths of being a Digital Designer, with 5 takeaway learning tips.

Krishna Solanki Designs - 5 Truths Of Being A Digital Designer

 

1 | Be prepared to receive feedback - good and bad

I remember designing my first ever landing page.  I spent ages perfecting the alignment, placing the hero image in the right place, making sure I was using the right fonts and colours, I made sure everything was "right".  Then came the moment of talking through the design to the client, showing them my design ability and attention to detail.  I was fully prepared.

As I finished talking through the design there was a silence. It was slightly nerve-wracking.  I remember the client saying they really liked the design, the imagery, the placement and use of hierarchy in font styles BUT.. then came the real feedback. Then came the feedback I was hoping to have not received. The feedback of changes because they didn't like certain elements.  My gut literally sank. It made me feel like I hadn't done the right thing like I hadn't followed the brief and I hadn't got it right.  It was a horrible feeling.

Naturally, I took the feedback on board and I started making the amends, all whilst wondering where I could improve.

I realised as much as I thought I had prepared myself for the meeting before it started, I had not. I had only prepared myself for them LIKING what I had done.

Take away learning tip: I realised I should have prepared myself to receive feedback, good and bad as that is inevitably what comes out of a design meeting.

2 | Not every client is the right fit

Over the years of being a designer, I have learnt that not every client is the right fit for me.  At the beginning, I took on every project I could get my hands on.  It wasn't long before I worked with a client that was not the right fit for me.  From the initial logo concepts all the way through to website development and final handover this particular client never liked to follow the process I had in place to ensure the project ran smoothly. As a result, the project ran over schedule and unfortunately the end result was rushed.  It's a shame as I really enjoyed the design aspect of the project.

Take away learning tip:  I now have an initial consult call to discuss the project requirement.  I find this is a great way to screen both the project and the client to see if they fit in with my work ethics, my personality and with my timelines too.

3 | You need to stay ahead of the game

Being in the creative industry where design and technology often go hand in hand it's important to stay ahead of the game. In the design world, there is always someone working on, improving or experimenting, with how a design can be made better, or simplified.  New techniques, faster productivity methods, new trends....Design is always evolving which is why it is important to keep up with what is new.

Take away learning tip:  Try staying on top of new style, trends, techniques and more by reading articles and blog posts.  More often than not I find Pinterest and Twitter my most useful social media sites for learning and finding articles to read.

4 | Community over competition

I am naturally a competitive person.  From a very young age, I have been keen in making sure if I start something I do "it" with a whole heart.  Not to go off topic here, but I started 2 netball teams - finding interested people to participate, teaching them the basics of the game and then encourage them to participate in tournaments, and eventually winning runner up in a sports tournament.  Needless to say, I have the drive to make it happen.  Bringing it back to branding and design, there are LOADS of talented designers in the industry.  At one point I felt threatened by the number of awesome designer portfolios I would come across.  Almost to the extent that I ended up adding extra pressure on myself to "beat the competition".  Then as time progressed and my design skills increased and I became more confident (and more mature!) I realised that it really is "community over competition".

Take away learning tip: Instead of competing against all the awesome, talented designers, realising you can learn from them will help you appreciate that there are talented designers out there.  Recognising that and finding inspiration in that is far better than competing against them.

5 | Perfectionism can be your enemy

Most people would consider being a perfectionist as a good thing. Striving for excellence in ensuring you are delivering the best design possible not only shows skill, but also good work ethic.  I'm a perfectionist, and although it is a good thing, sometimes it can be the worst thing as a designer.  Being a perfectionist involves setting standards that are so high that they either cannot be met, or they are met with great difficulty.  Speaking from experience, this has meant that in the past I have created designs that are on point and have meet the brief but I believe that somehow I haven't delivered the perfect design.  This has meant a few things:

  1. Additional pressure on myself  

  2. Unnecessary lack of confidence in my design skills

  3. Extra long deliberation on the project.

So, although wanting to make sure every pixel is lined up and every element is placed correctly, I have to remind myself not to overdo it.

Take away learning tip: Do your best, meet the brief, and review.  Sometimes you need to step away from the design to see that it is really great.

Some people may say they wish they had known these things before they started in the creative industry or as a designer, but personally, there is no better way of learning than experiencing it for yourself. Sure reading others experiences can help you prepare, understand and even action your own plan, but sometimes it's worth just doing it your own way.  I hope my 5 truths of being a Digital Designer have helped you in some way or form.

Are you an aspiring Designer? Are you a newbie to the design industry? Do you have any truths you should share?


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5 things I learnt working at a startup

Design, StartupKrishna Solanki2 Comments

I've worked for a handful of companies, large ones like Inmarsat, which is a British satellite telecommunications company, medium ones like Play.com, and small ones like Media Ingenuity.  The smallest company I have worked for, well tiny actually, was a start up.  (That's of course if I don't include working for myself, which in this case, I haven't!!)

With me being the third employee to the company, and to the team it was quite an experience working for Eventiility - which during the course of my employment rebranded to be called Joinin.

Before I started I wasn't really sure what to be "aware of" if that makes sense. I knew it was a start up but what does that actually mean to a designer?

5 Things I have learnt working at a startup

I read the job description and spoke to my boss (who happened to be a freelance client of mine before this point) and it was all really attractive -  casual office, fun and relaxed environment, potential to advance really quickly, big pay off (with tiny small print about the company making it BIG), working from home, flexi-hours, potential stock options, variety of work, brand spanking new iMac.. gosh the list was endless.
There was so much excitement and enthusiasm it was hard to decline the offer, and so I didn't.
I was the "one man band" for everything design for the company.

As the journey began I noticed a few things, here are the most prominent ones as a designer....

1 | Change is your friend

I had to accept that as a designer the first "draft" of a design, or the first proposed design is just that. It's a draft, it's proposed. No design is ever going to get sign off straight away, there is always a process of "design -> feedback -> amend -> review".  That process can seem endless sometimes and therefore it's important to embrace that change is your friend.  The sooner I learnt to accept that, the happier my startup working life. That leads me to the second point.

2 | It's all go go go

As a designer it's great to be able to check out the design world and see what's going on on twitter or dribbble.  But I had to have time for that.  Being the be all and end all of things design means I was all hands on deck.  I dove right in and got down to the nitty gritty.  Although the job description said "X", trust me, I was doing "X, Y, Z, A, B and C".. and that was all at once as well. 

3 | Learning on the job!

Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, right? Well seen as it's all "go go go" sometimes the learning curve is really steep. Because it's steep I ended up creating numerous designs for a variety of mediums.  I was doing website designs for one thing, iPhone app designs for another, icon designs for part of the companys brand visuals, and creating media kits and reports too.  I also lended a hand to front end coding some of the designs I was creating! (I can code by the way I wasn't just "doing it"!)  It was great as no day was the same and I was never bored. It also meant that I had lots of experience working on a vast range of designs within a short period of time.

4 | Take a break

I've never been good at doing this.  I learnt to actually force myself to step away and blink.  It's so easy to just keep going and end up sitting at your desk from 8.30am all the way through to 6pm!  Obviously my bladder often reminded me that I needed to take a break too, but I needed to make it more of a habit than not.

5 | All good things come to an end

With all the benefits that come with a startup there was bound to be a catch, right..? no pension scheme, health insurance, company maternity pay, are just a few of them.  It can be hard to one day be working like crazy to the next then realise that you may not have a job to get up and go to.  That's the reality of startups. They can quite quickly become "shut-downs".  That's why I found that it's ever important to know exactly what you are getting yourself in for.  It's your responisilbity to measure the risk and make your decisions.

 

These are the 5 key things I learnt from working at a startup.  It was great fun and I loved every second of it.  Would I do it again? - YES!... and thats why I love creating, designing everything for small businesses. It's the whole package. The up and the down, the busy and the quiet (well less quiet).  
Why not check out my work and my packages to see if I would be a great fit for your startups' vision.

 

Have you worked for a startup? What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear about your experiences!