Any number of things can separate an inexperienced designer from a more seasoned vet. Something like the use of low-resolution images, bad cropping, stretched images, or discoloration might come to mind initially. However, those are things that someone who is genuinely interested in learning design can overcome fairly quickly and with what might seem like general ease. Here, we’ll tackle faults that tend to separate an inexperienced designer from an experienced one, and how changing your approach to design can help you become more like the latter.
Taking Constructive Criticism
Even if your design is one of the most beautiful creations in the world, it doesn’t mean it necessarily fits with the project or style of your client. It also doesn’t mean you can’t look at your own work from a different perspective.
More likely than not, you might surprise yourself with something even better. The worst thing that can happen by taking constructive criticism into account is trying the suggestion out and deciding it looked better the other way. Now, a key point here is not to confuse constructive criticism with plain out criticism (yes, there is a difference). Even though it’s criticism, the constructive kind should still have a positive spin on it—the aim being to make your work better. As the designer, you just need to have an open mind and be mentally prepared to accept that your work is going to be looked at critically, and suggestions will be made.
A good first step towards taking part in the constructive criticism process is to have the “critic” ask the designer something along the lines of this: “is it okay that I give my feedback?” or “Are you ready to accept feedback on this piece?” Asking before giving is a great way for designers who are learning to overcome the possibility of having negative reactions towards constructive criticism. So, designers: remember to keep an open mind and don’t take anything too personally when it comes to client work.
Clarity with the Client
This habit is probably one of the most important to overcome on the list. If you’re clear with the client about exactly what they want, what they’re looking for, and what they can expect from you, then you’re going to be off to a really good start. This will also set up a good precedent for interacting with the client for longer periods of time. A lot of times it’s easy to just sit down and create anything (you’re a designer, that’s what you do!), but even creating something that looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean it was what the client was looking for.
Often times your client isn’t going to know how to answer questions about style or colors, and that’s A-OK. An experienced designer will take the time to explain to the client and ask the right questions to get the answers they need for direction. Make sure both you and the client are on the same page before spending hours upon hours on any given project. Not only does this include the design of the project, but also be sure that the client is aware of the time it will take to complete certain parts of the project.
People who aren’t immersed in the design world don’t normally have any way to gauge how long designing something of quality with the right direction and aspects actually takes. They may also not understand the process of having choices and drafts, then correcting drafts to final pieces. These are all important parts of the process to explain—it’s important to make sure that the client is clear on these points in order to help avoid impossible expectations versus reality.
Quality Every Time
Even when you have an idea for “the perfect design”, sometimes, it’s hard to put the same amount of effort into your other one or two design options for the client. The client should always have at least one other option when presenting designs, and even though you might be rooting for what you think is the perfect design, it doesn’t mean you should slack on the time and quality put into the other option.
As designers, it can be hard to think that someone might prefer a design different than your favorite. A good designer, however, will present sound, logical reasoning for why the client should choose their design… this, of course, doesn’t always mean the client will.
It sort of goes without saying, then, that every option provided should have the same amount of time, energy, and thought put into it. An experienced designer wouldn’t let their work slack because they weren’t as big of a fan of one piece compared to the other. After all, you never know what the client will have in mind.
A Second Set of Eyes
Sometimes, after working on a project for many hours and putting your all into it, designers forget (or chose not to… woops) ask others to take a second look at their work, especially if their colleagues aren’t design-oriented. This is a mistake. More often than not, people who don’t really understand the intricacies of design can inspire some great ideas. It’s always good for a designer to let a project sit for a day before giving it a final look to catch spelling errors—or, if something looks “off”, or doesn’t appear to be in the right place. Having a second set of eyes review your work makes catching these tiny mistakes, which are usually missed because the designer is so close to the work, much easier to find.
Don’t send your work off in a hurry. An experienced designer will take their time—step away from the work, share it with a trusted colleague or editor—and move forward from there.
When it comes to taking your design to the next level, how you approach your work and interact with your clients and potential clients is where an experienced designer can shine. Not being able to take creative criticism, not making sure you and your client are clear with vision and what is going on, not creating each mock-up with the same quality as if it was a final piece, and not getting a second pair of eyes to look over your work are faults that an inexperienced designer will need to be aware of and accept that they’re most likely making. Design is a process, and making those mistakes is part of the learning curve. The trick is to make an effort to overcome those mistakes—they are far harder to overcome than learning the difference in image resolutions or knowing how not to stretch an image.
Keep practicing good design habits, and a good design attitude, and stellar work will always be the result.
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. We are located in New York City and Connecticut.