The Design Advice I Live By

As the last post in this little trio about learning graphic design, I wanted to share some of the best advice I’ve received and pass it on to you guys. I’m constantly learning and constantly finding new mentors, whether that’s through work, friendships, or just finding new guides online. I’ve received so much advice and help and inspiration, far more than I could chronicle here and far more than I can probably actively remember. But these are some of the pieces of advice that have stuck and I keep with me to this day.

PUSH STRAIGHT LINES AND PULL CURVES

This one’s something quite practical I learned at school but I say it to myself before I draw up any plans and it has never failed me.

DON’T SKIP PEN AND PAPER

It’s easy to just jump into designing on the computer, but someone at work recently reminded me that the best way to start is sketching it out with pen and paper. There’s something about physically drawing out your ideas that frees up your ideas and I’m all for anything that gets me away from a screen.

START WITH THE USER

This is particularly true of service design, but it applies to anything you’re making. You should start with the person you’re designing for, and working out what they actually want and need. It’s the only way to ensure you’re making something that’s going to have an impact on other people’s lives. Real people often behave quite differently to how you imagine them.

YOU’RE ALWAYS 3 YEARS BEHIND WHERE YOUR TASTE IS AT

This one keeps me going when I feel like whatever I’m producing is awful. There’s always a skill gap between your taste and your hands, so don’t worry if what you’re producing isn’t as good as the best thing you can imagine just yet it shows you’re reaching and you have good taste. Plus in 3 years you’ll be able to do it easily.

EVERY DECISION NEEDS TO HAVE A PURPOSE

You should be able to go back through everything you decided in a project from colour palettes to layouts to paper choices and be able to explain why you chose to do what you did well, because sometimes you’ll have to.

DON’T DESIGN IT TOO MUCH, KEEP IT SIMPLE

A design project isn’t an excuse to show off every new skill you’ve learned, no matter how shiny. Keep your work as simple as you can, and make the design do the work behind the scenes it doesn’t need to be doing jazz hands on the page.

ASK YOURSELF “DOES IT WORK?”

I was told this at an internship regarding advertising, but I think it applies to pretty much anything you make. Make things that work. That means you need to know what you’re making is supposed to do: is it meant to make someone buy a car? To feel happy? Sad? To make a process easier? To convey some information? Make sure whatever you’re doing has a purpose and it fulfils that purpose.

A CLIENT ISN’T JUST PAYING FOR YOUR HANDS THEY’RE PAYING FOR YOUR BRAIN

I love this one because it reminds me to give my opinion when working with clients and to push back when I think I need to. A client isn’t just paying for a photoshop monkey, they’re paying for a designer so make sure you are one and use your experience and knowledge to inform everything you do and recommend.

CHARGE BASED ON THE AMOUNT OF VALUE YOU’RE ADDING

If someone is going to make more money because of your work, you should be paid according to this added value. If you’re designing a poster for a concert and them having a good poster is going to make them an extra £500 of profit they can afford to pay you more than £25. Just bear that in mind. This also came from a client so it resonated even more with me.

DON’T LOSE WHY YOU LOVE IT

This final piece of advice is from me to you (and to me). Whatever you love about what you’re doing right now don’t forget it, keep that thing close and keep doing it. Don’t let a passion become passive.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’re received? Who has inspired you or taught you something that’s helped shape your practice?

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2 Comments

  1. June 7, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    I’m sad that this is the last piece. It’s been insightful and encouraging.

    • Natalie
      June 15, 2017 / 4:21 pm

      I’m glad you’ve got something out of them Zed, I think I’m going to do more content like this in in the future so they won’t be gone for long!

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