Five things I’d tell myself five years ago

One of the things I appreciate doing as a designer from time to time is stepping back and taking a look at how far I’ve come. It’s one of the things that we don’t often do enough as designers.

We’re so focused on what’s in front of us and what’s ahead of us, that it’s easy to lose track. Sometimes we’re actually making progress! So on today’s episode, I wanted to talk about five things I would have told myself five years ago.

Hard work is great but take care of yourself

If there’s one thing I’ve learned being a graphic designer, it’s how much burnout can affect us in our industry. We get this rhythm going where we’re expected to keep pushing and keep working hard. While that’s great, it often means that we’re taking a backseat to other things like our mental and physical health. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over the last year that I’ve had to come to grips with. I won’t go into much detail, but needless to say it was an eye opening experience.

Once I realized what I was doing and how it was affecting me, it made a significant difference in my design for the better.

It’s okay to fail as long as you get back up

This is one of the things that’s difficult about being a graphic designer. There’s a lot of pressure and expectations these days that get put on us. Things like clients from hell!”

One of the things that we struggle with is points of failure like this. Maybe a client didn’t like the the design concepts that you came up with. Maybe the printer came back with something that wasn’t exactly done the way you expected it to be or hoped it would be. We see these failure points and it’s easy to you beat yourself up over it. I’ve done that plenty of times! But sometimes we need to give give ourselves permission to learn from the experience and move forward

Your best work doesn’t come 100% of the time

I’m always a fan of a saying in baseball: if you fail 70% of the time as a batter, then that’s successful.

As designers, we need to keep something like that in mind. W e’re not going to bat at a 30% success rate. We have to do a little better than that. We’re not swinging at 90 mile an hour fast balls every time. (Although some days it feels like.) We have to give ourselves permission to create terrible work every once in a while.

I know there’s websites out there like Dribbble that promote putting our best foot forward all the time. But sometimes we need to allow ourselves to experiment and come up with something a little bit different. Even if it does mean that it’s not great, its worth exploring.

Don’t hide behind the monitor

Many of us get caught on this one. And this is especially true for me. There’s this issue of finding inspiration online or finding design that we like online without going into the real world. 

People are getting better about being off the computer. They’re, they’re trying their apps in real life if they’re developing their apps. They’re going to antique stores to see how design used to be done — whether that’s through old advertisements, posters or things of that nature. And there’s a lot out of out there!

It’s easy to get caught up thinking that something has to function a certain way without thinking about it further. So getting out behind the monitor can be a good thing.

Slow down!

Ironically, because this is a five minute podcast. Slow down, not everything needs to be done at light speed. This is something that I’m still struggling with, but it’s something that I’m hoping I can get a little bit better at. I understand that there’s some times that we have to do rush projects for people and that there are deadlines in the real world.

But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to slow down for a little bit. Take a deep breath and appreciate what’s going on all around you. Sometimes, to get back to the last point a little bit, you might find some inspiration and some unlikely places.

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