8 Tips to Help Entry-Level Graphic Designers

It’s awesome working in a creative industry. Everyday is different and brings with it the need for new design solutions. But, it can be difficult to be consistently creative! Don’t worry, creative block affects us all. We’ve put together the following tips to help you progress on your creative  journey.

  • Stay Organized: Don’t Rely On Memory

Managing deadlines is an essential part of being a designer. Design work can be unpredictable—one day you’ve got one design task to focus on, the next you’ve got five different tasks to juggle all with looming deadlines. Multiple deadlines can make it hard to focus on one thing and can dim your creativity.

You need to be able to quickly prioritize how you see your week unfolding. Whatever you do, don’t leave things up to memory. Make a calendar, or mark your tasks out for the week in some form—there’s no best way to do this, it’s whatever works best for you. Google Calendar is useful, some designers like to use Trello, others prefer to use a physical notebook or post-it notes.

The idea is to separate your tasks into different chunks of time. Focusing on one task at a time helps you be more creative.

  • Always Overestimate

Contrary to the belief unfortunately held by some clients, design work takes time! Clients always have one preferred deadline: “ASAP.” Which isn’t very helpful, therefore it’s up to you to make a judgement call. It’s recommended you overestimate how long a certain project will take to complete. Why overestimate? Because a rushed project often requires more edits, resulting in a missed deadline.

If you finish things early, great! Move on to the next task. You never know what can happen to your task schedule, therefore overestimating is usually more realistic than underestimating. It’s also about not giving unrealistic expectations to your boss or a client. Let’s say you’ve worked extremely hard to meet an unrealistic deadline. Your work ethic is impressive, but for your client it just gives them the green light to say “good job, now do the same again.”

  • Build Your Portfolio

Your portfolio is your resume! As soon as possible you need to begin adding a variety of projects to your portfolio. Each project you include should show off different aspects of your talent and how adaptable you are.

Your portfolio will look different depending on what level and type of designer you are. For example, a graphic designer’s portfolio will look different to a web designers; both will look far different than a senior art director’s portfolio. At all points in your career, an up-to-date work portfolio is vital. Remember, it’s easier to record the best parts of a project while it’s fresh in your memory, it’s recommended you update your portfolio as you complete valuable projects.

Nowadays you should both have a digital and physical copy of your portfolio to bring to interviews. Depending on the job, organize your portfolio to emphasise projects that are most relevant. If you’re a beginner, read this 5 minute guide to building a portfolio from InVision.

  • Discover Your Niche

What’s your area of specialty? What’s the difference you have that will make someone choose you over a generalist? This is a great way to find what you enjoy most, while establishing a solid portfolio of experience. Make or keep as many connections with other designers as you can, they are all possibilities to find new work. If you’re a beginner, developing a niche might not always be possible, you’re probably going to take whatever gig you can and do your best. You don’t truly know if you enjoy a design niche until you try it, further it’s good to understand other niches to help you understand the rest of a design team.

  • Constantly Renew Your Motivation

It’s difficult to stay motivated. Even though you’re passionate about design, there’s going to be moments where you’re stressed, agitated and bored. As stated earlier, beginners often have to do tasks that aren’t what they naturally enjoy. Here, we need to remind ourselves that skills are transferable, each project you undertake is part of preparation for your future niche. Doing a good job here means doing an excellent job later for a task you’ll enjoy more.

Part of motivation loss is burnout. Burnout is recognized by the World Health Organization as a syndrome that results from “chronic work stress” and is something more designers need to take seriously. Task overload, lack of variety and inadequate break times are common causes. Simply put, if you just come out of an intense period of multiple deadlines, this needs to be followed by a break! Not a half hour break: an entire afternoon and weekend not even thinking about design. Also, learn to say no; if you’re already busy, stop doing freebies for your friends and take some time off. A great read for avoiding burnout is this piece highlighting why we should remove ourselves from the internet.

  • Welcome Criticism

Never stop learning, never stop being a student. There are going to be countless times your superiors, peers or clients disagree with your solution and criticize you. Especially as a beginner, many mistakes are the result of simply not knowing what you don’t know. It’s important to keep an open mind and find the value in any sort of feedback.

Becoming accustomed to criticism can be difficult. Especially as a beginner, you’re most likely going to be very defensive of your work. Being too defensive will only stunt your progress, other designers are there to help you learn! Take in what you’ve learned, cut your losses and begin your next project.

  • Keep Up With Industry Trends

The creative industry moves fast and it’s important you keep up with it. Ask yourself, what design styles and techniques are currently trending? Are they relevant to you, do these trends require you to learn anything new? If you client wants a modern design, what does “modern” actually mean? It may have changed since last month. Keeping yourself up with industry trends means you’re also keeping up with client demands.

Pay extra attention to popular holiday trends. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have to produce themed design works for a range of holidays your organization participates in. Get in on the trends early, see what everyone else is doing and figure out what adjustments you can make to stand out.

  • Dare To Be Creative

Design tasks often come with some sort of vision from the client. It’s your job to interpret what they want, try and meet their vision, giving your own recommendations as to what might better their vision. Every task will have multiple ways of doing things—don’t be scared to follow those moments of inspiration where you envision a different way of completing things. Maybe it won’t go well, but that’s okay! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Finally, Always Back Yourself

These eight tips will launch you on a path to design success. Work hard but don’t overwork. Stay organized, create realistic deadlines, be open to criticism and remain familiar with industry trends.

If you’re a design student or beginner, your first job is key to your development. Thankfully, plenty of reputable companies are looking for the next wave of talented designers. We encourage you to take a look at creative design division at CodeClouds. They’ve gained international success, so if tackling projects that serve people all over the world sounds like you—go for it! They’re constantly expanding and often have roles for junior expert creative designers as well as established team leads.

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