It’s a great time to work as a designer. Designers launch billion-dollar startups. Companies that have been around for a hundred years are transforming into design driven organizations.
Design thinking is taught in business schools. And advances in technology are making it possible to create great products like never before.
Given our fast-paced career, talented colleagues and new responsibilities, some of us are asking questions:
- How will I compete with all these talented designers?
- How do I learn what they “already know”?
- Will I be able to work with the same quality?
- Am I really a designer?
This kind of thinking triggers the “impostor syndrome” in you. Fear that you will be perceived as a fraud, despite all the merit and talent.
But don’t worry, it’s actually a good thing.
I am one of those designers who did not graduate from design school. I had no idea what I knew about design until I joined the IBM team in London.
Soon, I met with a team that was engaged in the design and development of mobile applications. I was very amazed at what designers can do. They were not artists who wield a brush (as society sees them). They solved problems, researched and did. I wanted to get to them.
After I introduced myself to them, it turned out that they were looking for a junior designer. In order to be accepted, I had to cope with a test task. The description said that I need to redesign the main page of the site of a well-known insurance company for a mobile platform.
That weekend, I studied as many design articles and Photoshop tutorials as I could. I also looked at as many insurance applications and websites as possible. I got the job thanks to 95% luck and 5% cramming!
After 4 years, I am still working (pah-pah!). Now I work as a product designer together with Apple + IBM. However, I would not have achieved this without good mentors, several courses, endless reading, and a lot of practice. My path has also been filled with doubts, setbacks and defeats.
Everyone who does creative work has good taste. But here’s the catch. For the first few years, you’re just trying to paint well. You try to paint well, you have potential, but you don’t like it. This is because your taste stops you. Your taste makes you disappointed in your work.
– Ira Glass
What I’ve learned from my short and hectic design career is that just about every designer sucks. Or at least the designer is not as good as he seems. The questions that I voiced at the beginning of the article are asked by designers around the world. Most feel the same fears.
Those who try to deny their “impostor syndrome” can have negative consequences. Such a designer may try to do what the “impostor” will not do. He will have a hard time admitting that he needs help or advice. Typically, designers who deny their syndrome are shy about their work, fear criticism, and are less open to feedback. They perceive their efforts as experience, but, at the same time, it negatively affects their professional growth.
The biggest differences for those who adopt their “impostor syndrome” are that:
- They often realize that they lack certain skills.
- They are open to outside opinion.
- Their egos are not too high
These three qualities are key to becoming a cool designer.
So my advice to you is: embrace your impostor syndrome and use it to improve yourself. Use your mind to learn new things. Create a development plan for yourself and take advantage of the excellent resources that are available today:
- Read design blogs to learn from other designers’ experiences.
- Listen to podcasts and get inspired by overcoming challenges in the careers of top designers
- Try yourself on other projects for a diversified experience
- Most importantly, be open to new experiences and collaborations. Let other people’s experiences become yours.
Then watch how you change, ask for feedback on your work, and so on. Let your progress motivate you. Then use that motivation, along with the enjoyment of good work, to keep learning.
Self-confidence will come to you over time. Naturally, feelings of doubt will sometimes haunt you and return you to the old days whenever you face a new test. But with your consciousness, constant learning and improvement, you can become a very cool designer.