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13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be a Successful UX Designer

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be a Successful UX Designer

Cut out the things that are holding you back

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be a Successful UX Designer

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

Success has different definitions for everyone. Becoming a great giver upperis essential to succeeding at the things that are important to you. Give up the stuff that is holding you back from becoming a great designer.

“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” (Seth Godin)

1. Give up thinking you’re an imposter

“I’ve written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they’re going to find me out now” (Maya Angelou)

Many designers suffer this fate. According to research, Imposter Syndrome affects 7 in 10 people at some point in their lives. It’s very common in high achievers and creatives.

Tanya Livesey gives great tips on how to deal with imposter syndrome:

  • As you grow and move up, be flexible and adaptable as you’ll never know all the answers.
  • Get a mentor. They can be a great support and inspiration.
  • Our inner critical voice usually comes from trying to live up to someone as a child. Tell your inner voice to zip it.
  • Spend more time looking outward rather than inward. Work on being less introspective.
  • Be proud and embrace failure.

2. Give up trying to solve the problem yourself

“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves” (Lyndon B. Johnson)

User experience design is about collaboration between designers, colleagues, the business and users, to get the most useful and usable product created. You need to work with as many people as possible to get their ideas, insights and perspective on what you are designing.

Avoid going solo and get ideas from everywhere.

3. Give up working for a company that doesn’t do proper UX

“Most business models have focused on self interest instead of user experience” (Tim Cook)

Very difficult to grow as a designer if the company you work for doesn’t do the proper UX process. To do the right UX process takes time. If your business doesn’t make time for adequate UX design, it means it’s not a priority.

4. Give up trying to keep up with everything that’s going on in the tech world

“Let whatever you do today be enough”

There’s a lot going on in the world of tech. It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with all the new stuff that’s coming out. Be picky and don’t get too stuck on everything. Find your niche and keep an eye on what’s going on in that area. For everything else, filter it out and keep your intake to a manageable amount.

5. Give up being unhealthy

“The mind and body are not seperate. What affects one affects the other”

To be a good designer you need to be creative, motivated and inspired. You can’t always be inspired, but if you eat crap and don’t do any exercise, your head will get foggy.

You can be unhealthy and design well, but it won’t last. Everything in moderation. Look after your health to give yourself the best chance of becoming an inspired designer.

6. Give up worrying about the tools you design with

“Problems are evergreen; tools and patterns are simply artefacts we shouldn’t be beholden to” (Stephanie Engle)

There are many tools for UX designers, and new ones pop up all the time. Use what works best for you. Use what makes the process as quick, simple and productive as possible.

Keep an eye on the new ones coming and be open to give them a try. Don’t get stuck on your everyday tools as there may be one new one that’ll make your life easier.

7. Give up rushing into Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, Photoshop etc.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” (Abraham Lincoln)

“Slow down. Rushing means you miss what’s right here”

Rushing’s not suitable for the UX process. You need to slow yourself down to design purposely.

Jumping ahead is the natural tendency. Personally, I like getting into Sketch, it feels like I’m moving forward, but it’s usually too soon. To create efficient designs, you are wise to stand back at the start and work through your discover and research stages.

8. Give up thinking you can’t get a job at Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Medium etc

“If you want it work for it, it’s as simple as that”

If you want to get somewhere, you need to write it down and work out how the hell you can get there.

You don’t need to be the best designer to work with the best companies. You need to be the most resourceful. Hatch a plan and hustle like mad.

Andrew Doherty does a great job explaining how his resourcefulness got him a job at Google in his video ‘How to get a great job in UX’.

9. Give up on perfectionism

“Making mistakes is better than faking perfections”

You’re not meant to get your designs perfect; you’re expected to get them out into the wild as soon as is sensible, then test and iterate.

You only really learn when you make mistakes. If you’re fearful of making mistakes and try to get everything perfect, you’ll miss out on learning.

10. Give up thinking you can’t write

You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing (Doris Lessing)

Writing helps designers:

  • Research a topic and learn more about it.
  • Articulate their thought process.
  • Learn to tell a story.
  • Pass on their learnings to others.
  • Become a better designer.

I write every week, some weeks every day. Much of it gets deleted. Much of it I don’t like, it’s iterative. Writing has made me a better reader, a better learner, a better writer and a better designer. Give it a go. You don’t need to publish it, you just just need to start writing.

11. Give up working with toxic people

“Letting go of toxic people is an act of self-care” (Karen Salmansohn)

They’ll be people you work with who don’t see the value in UX design. They’ll be those who’s ego gets in the way of their job, and they treat you or your work colleagues poorly.

When you come across these people, plan to move on, if it looks like you’ll be working with them for a while. You need to surround yourself with inspiring people to become a great designer

12. Give up worrying about titles

“You will be measured by your influence in the digital age, not your job title”

Are you a mid-weight designer? A senior designer? Neither matters. To become a great designer, you need to focus on your trade and not your title. Your skills and experience are more important than your title.

You are not a senior designer because you have it in your title. You’re a senior level designer because you have done your time, worked hard, produced lots of great work and can pass this on to designers starting out.

13. Give up working in your comfort zone

“A ship in a harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are for” (John A. Shed)

You only really learn when you’re out of your comfort zone. Once you get to point when you have mastered all you can in an area, and you’re getting comfortable, it’s time to move on.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

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4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become Popular

How many designers are out there?

According to BLS, there were almost 270,000 graphic designers – employed – in the US alone. How about freelancers and other types of designers?

On LinkedIn job stats, there are almost 3 million people who have “designer” in their profile description. However, anyone can put a “designer” tag in their profile. I’m sure my unemployed friend who constantly criticizes the Mickey Mouse t-shirt I love is somewhere among them.

Yet, global design platform Behance rejoiced on reaching 10,000,000 members in 2017, and in the same year Dribbble welcomed more designers than it did during 6 previous years.

So, how many designers are out there? A lot, and a lot more to come.

Now how many of them are standing out?

To make this question not rhetorical – how many of them have more followers than they follow themselves? How many of them have more than 1,000 followers?

In my last article, I asked successful designers how to be unique while standing out. In this article, I’ll try to cover how to stand out while staying unique.

Use Platform-Specific Tricks

There are many platforms that you can feature your work on: Behance, Dribbble, Instagram…

You can say that they are all pretty much the same – you upload your work and count your likes. However, the devil is in the detail. Every platform has a unique set of features that make certain efforts more efficient. I’ll mention a few.

Behance

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become PopularIn my opinion, two distinct features of Behance are curated sections and collaborations.

Curated Sections

On Behance, there are curators who go through thousands of projects every day and decide which ones to feature in every one of 60 different categories. What does that mean for you?

You have a chance, even if not a particularly popular designer, of getting featured in one of these and instantly attract a lot of attention to your work. Sounds too good to be true? Probably, because getting featured is darned hard.

There are hundreds of established professionals on Behance with a great following base, so their work will always attract the attention of many people, and, consequently, curators.

So what do you do? You pivot. You niche. Or you buzz.

  • Pivot: if everyone is drawing elephants, try going for a mouse. The hardest part about pivoting is not drawing mice, it’s finding elephants. More on that in the later sections.
  • Niche: some Behance categories, such as illustration and graphic design, are overpopulated. Others, such as [made via] After Effects, have lower competition. Thus, they are easier to get into.
  • Buzz: work with big brands. Big names always attract attention. Work for free, if you need to, just to get your name out there. More on that later in the article.

Collaborations

One thing I like about Behance is that you can have multiple owners for a project.

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become Popular

Project on behance

When a project has multiple owners, it is shown in the feed of every one of them. Such projects get the attention of all the followers of the people involved, and, consequently, more often end up in the curated section.

If you plan to do a collaboration, make it a worthwhile experience for all the designers involved – have approximately the same number of followers to have equal benefits in the pack and make sure that your collaboration will actually produce something interesting to the people. If you can’t offer followers, offer something else – money, time or organizational skills.

Just remember, Behance is a project-oriented platform. You never upload a single shot from your work – there has to be a whole visual story to every post you make. If you post anything, make sure it includes sketches, added materials, alternates, etc. Make sure you work tells a story. Ideally, make sure that your whole profile tells a story. All the projects you upload should be somehow connected, otherwise curators might think you’re fishing for their attention and testing their algorithms.

Also, I’ve noticed that on Behance most projects that get featured are real-world projects, there’s not much fooling around with test concepts and fun ideas.

If you want to fool around & experiment, I know just the place.

Dribbble

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become PopularDribbble is all about single shots. You post just one piece of your work, and that’s it. It changes the whole approach on how you behave on the platform.

First of all, your shot should be catchy. A few tips here:

  • Animation: Dribbble supports .gif and, recently, video formats. Animation always intrigues, and people like to know where it goes. In order to watch full animation, they click on your shots.
  • Vibrant colors: unfortunately, as all great marketers do, Dribbble designers exploit basic human nature to spot unusual things around us. Thus, bold colors will inevitably attract more attention than neutral tones. However, if everyone is using them, the opposite happens. Remember about spotting elephants.

All in all, designers on Dribbble tend to experiment more than on Behance. Half-baked concepts, unrealistic color combinations, and overloaded animations could be inappropriate in real-world projects, but here? It’s a wild west of ideas, and you can easily be the one to find gold.

There are no curators on Dribbble, so you attract the attention of your fellow designers and bystanders. Every shot you upload starts in the “Recent” section. If your shot is popular and gets upvoted, you will end up in the “Popular” section on the main page. There are not many rules here, so you are free to experiment with whatever works. Your profile can be a collection of completely opposite projects, yet stay relevant at the same time.

Tip: consider regular posting if you want to end up in the “Trending” section of the platform.

Instagram

I’ve seen many designers having profiles on Instagram, uploading their shots there parallel to uploading on Dribbble or Behance.

As for me, Instagram is the worst choice for a designer, because other platforms give you access to a design community and to people who are deliberately looking for someone to hire. However, that is where Instagram differs from design-oriented platforms: the audience.

Your work will be judged not by designers, but by ordinary people. Their design standards and overall awareness in the field is lower, so the only binary you’ll be judged with is “I like it”, or “I don’t like it”. I wouldn’t expect bystanders to appreciate 30 hours spent on kerning two letters in a 3-letter logo.

On a bright side, it’s easier to stand out among legions of booty queens and travel bloggers with your work, especially if you’re in illustration. I wouldn’t expect UX mockups to generate a lot of aws, but who knows. You just need to find your audience.

A few tips, specific for Instagram:

Tags

A big part of the network. If you find popular and niche tags, you may attract attention to your work.

Tip: browse semi-popular designers (not those who have millions of followers) and try using in your posts the tags they use. Better yet, come up with tags that are hot and connected to your work, yet not too overpopulated.

Perhaps the most flexible promotional engine you can find anywhere, and it’s connected directly to Facebook ads. Unlimited potential, but requires a lot of expertise in Facebook and social marketing to make it work. I wouldn’t expect miracles here.

Strong marketing community

Many marketers employ Instagram as a selling platform for their products, so there are tons of materials on how to promote yourself there. Back following, giveaways, stories, influencers… Whatever works these days and is not banned, yet can be used if you’re willing to spend some time learning the craft.

That’s it for the tips. Take your time and learn the platform you’re going to use most often and utilize its hidden gems. Dribbble meetups, groups on Behance, Instagram analytics… I’d recommend focusing on one platform at a time – read success stories, try and fail, then try again, then give up, then watch Rocky movies, then don’t give up… You know the drill.

Identify Design Trends

Whatever you do, trends are there. Building trend awareness is equally important whether you’re going to follow trends, disrupt them, or even ignore them.

To spot design trends:

  • Analyze Dribbble top pages and Behance best section daily
  • Follow prominent designers in your field
  • Read popular design publications and authors

Analyze Dribbble top pages and Behance best section daily

I wouldn’t expect to catch all the trends in one day, so you should do the reconnaissance for some time. If you’re serious about design, you’re already doing it. Just start thinking more analytically about it.

Let’s look at the Dribbble “This Past Month” top shots:

Most of the shots here (actually, all of them) are made by popular designers on this platform. These people follow trends or create them. Their work will generate a lot of likes no matter what, but there’s still much to learn from here:

– What are the similarities between different designers?
– Is the shot as popular as other work of this designer?
– Are there any designers with a smaller following that made it to this section?
– Is there anything new any of these designers tried or did they keep their shots similar to the past ones?

Add “why” to every one of these questions. Add 10 more questions. Also look at the “top of the week” section. Repeat on Behance. Repeat weekly. That should give you some trend awareness.

Follow prominent designers in your field

Not all designers are on the platforms you utilize. Some of them tweet a lot, others blog. Find them, follow them, research their work and their insights.

Don’t just focus on the design field exclusively. Explore fashion, tech, culture, photography. The more versatile you are, the more resourceful you are. More on it in the “Merge trends” section below.

Utilize Trends

After you’ve built trend awareness, there are all sorts of things you can do, such as:

  • Follow trends
  • Disrupt trends
  • Merge trends

Follow trends

If you’re going to do what everyone else does, at least be the best at it. Or one step ahead.

We’ve been drawing icons for a long time and every major design update or trend, such as Apple’s switch from skeuomorph to flat design, or Android’s surge in popularity, affected our work.

We weren’t reinventing the wheel, we were drawing icons in popular styles. But people appreciated the quality of our work, and that got us pretty far.

We took it one step further, though. We took in requests for new icons, we developed many features on our website and built a whole community around our products. So can you.

If you spot that illustration in UIs is becoming trendy, don’t just make a nice illustration. Explore different UIs, create variations, take what someone prominent did and push it a bit forward. Do it every time, and someone will notice.

Disrupt trends

When you follow trends, you draw icons like this: [gentle color styles were quite popular at the time and even more popular nowadays]

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become Popular

Project on Dribbble

Naturally, you get many likes. These icons are balm for the soul.

When you disrupt trends, you do everything in reverse. Many colors? How about one. Bright violet. Let’s add forbidden gradient for good measure.

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become Popular

Project on Dribbble

If you’re lucky, double the likes.

Merge trends

You can merge trends from different disciplines. In the photography, hipster and realism are still holding the reins.

However, graphic design in 2018 was heavily influenced by colorful minimalism – remember top dribble shots.

What would happen if you merge minimalism and photography?

4 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd: How Designers Can Become Popular

Both photos are part of Icons8 “Moose” Photo Stock

You get #1 spot for a target search. And #2 as well.

Offer Expertise

Tutorials

Some designers may think that they need to be “popular” to make tutorials, but all you really need is to be good at something.

One of Icons8’s designers, Rita, made two niche tutorials on Skillshare: How to make Pixel Perfect Icons, and Animated Icons Transitions. She didn’t have thousands of followers, she was just really good at these things, because she did them every day.

Now she has almost 2,000 students that enrolled in these courses. She built the following from her expertise, and a Dribbble link in her mentor profile allows people to find more about her projects and follow her there.

Find what you’re good at and share your expertise with other people. Even if doesn’t bring you millions of followers, teaching is a very rewarding experience in itself. Give it a try. Making these tutorials free or not is up to you, both options have their pros and cons.

Note: it’s not just about teaching platforms. There are a lot of ways to give people value: YouTube and blog comments, Quora answers, Reddit discussions, live classes… It’s a mindset of sharing rather than the method that is most rewarding in the long run.

Tip: find top-ranking Google articles in your field of expertise that constantly generate traffic from Google, e.g. search “how to draw a logo”, and leave your expert opinion in the comments. Don’t be pushy, though, your contact information should be in your profile, not your comment.

Free work / Non-profit

I’ve seen many times this advice for designers: do not work for free. Most of the times, it is true.

Some crafty clients can offer you work for exposure, and think that this may be enough to light a twinkle in your eyes.

Even if you do banners for the next Olympics and billions of people will see them, it means nothing if you can’t share it with the world.

However, if you can…

Take the project. Work your ass off and then post the story on Behance. Big names, big clients, and big collaborations will almost always attract hefty attention.

Same goes for non-profits. There are so many famous non-profits, research funds and social organizations there that could use a good designer. Reach out to them, offer specific help (better yet, come ofrward with sketches and mockups) and make sure you bring real value. All you ask in return is the ability to feature your work on social media and design platforms. Such work will have a greater chance to be noticed than the paid projects for unknown e-commerce companies.

Interviews

Another way to share your expertise (and demonstrate it at the same time) is to give interviews. It goes without saying: if someone is reaching out to you with a question I see no valid reason to deny it.

Recently I reached out to 10 different designers with one question – What was the most unexpected thing you discovered in your profession/field?

Five designers replied. I wrote an article, and it got featured by CommArts, one of the oldest design publications out there:

So I did it again. 10 other designers, one question. This time six of them replied. It got featured again:

Of course, one twitter mention will not change your fate and spawn unicorns in your bathroom. But what if next time the article is picked up by Huffpost (I wish)? Or goes viral? And that was just one guy asking you one question.

But don’t wait for someone like me to write you, especially when you’re hard to find (I searched for my designers on the Dribbble “Trending” section”). Write an article yourself. Many online publications accept guest posts (including ours), especially coming from field masters.

Afterword

It happens that in our time, being “a good designer” or even “a great one” is not enough to stand out. One must also learn to attract attention to one’s work.

I hope you find the tips mentioned in this articles useful and a good starting point for your promotional efforts. If you have some tips or questions, make sure to leave a comment. Good luck!

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Article Via: Icons8