Ah, new beginnings! There’s probably no better time for creativity and drive than when we’re just getting started in our careers. But as we take our first steps into unchartered territory, we can often find ourselves overwhelmed by choice and weighed down by doubt. And starting a career in design is no different — except we’ve got some great tips from industry experts to help you set yourself up for success.
Let’s get inspired! ✨
7 tips to start your career in design
Below, you’ll find some nuggets of design wisdom from our #MadeWithSketch series. Make sure to bookmark this page so you can come back to it whenever you need some extra motivation 😉
Style is a fancy word for consistency and hard work
Design is a visual trade, so it’s no surprise that we focus so much on finding what looks right. We want our designs to be unique, appealing and scroll-stopping. But for product designer and illustrator Viviane Valenta, this impatience we feel when trying to find our own style is exactly what can end up throwing a wrench in the whole operation.
”Many times fellow artists have asked me how I found my style – in reality, it’s something that often develops over time. Patience and practice are the names of the game and as long as you stick with it and get to love the process, your style will come to you naturally.”
The only way to grow is to stay curious
When we’re just starting out, our main goal is to ‘make it‘. But if you work in design, those goalposts will keep moving. That’s why, for icon designer Yannick Lung, being able to remain curious and dare to try new things is vital — especially when your work depends on ever-changing platforms.
“I think the most important thing is to have a curiosity to try things out. If something excites you, then just attempt it. Many people (myself included) fail to try new ideas, especially in the beginning. To help me get started, I used to copy other icons, because I wanted to know how to create similar works of art.”
Design from within
Fashion designer Coco Chanel once said that “in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” And sure, that sounds easier said than done coming from the creator of the classic Little Black Dress. But Coco was onto something. To be great at design, you have to be equally great at being yourself and letting your personality shine through your work. And our very own content designer Giulia Virtus Azzoni agrees (did you know she designed and animated the image at the top of this post?).
“Nobody is irreplaceable, but everybody is unique. It can be easy to try to emulate those big designers we see online and hear about. But focusing on what makes you you is what’s going to be attractive to companies and studios — and that’s what makes you special. Sounds cheesy, I know!”
Designers are made, not born
When we’re not immediately good at something, it’s tempting to think that it’s because we’re just not made for it. But everyone struggles, even years into their careers. So don’t throw in the towel because you think you lack the knowledge or talent. Take Oskar Groth, for example. He’s the founder of Cindori and started his career as a programmer. But to create his app, Sensei, he needed to learn how to design as well. And he did!
“I think it’s a misconception that you have to be born a designer to become good at it; it’s as much an acquired skill as programming. I see many other indie developers who are great programmers but don’t see themselves as a designer, so they never even dare to try it. I’d say that if you’re serious about building a great product, you should be serious about learning design as well. It might be a long journey, but it will most definitely pay off in the long run.”
Keep going, but also know when to stop
Having a can-do attitude is definitely necessary to get through long projects and curveballs. But don’t let the hustle culture zap the joy out of designing. Give everything your best shot and rest when you need to. That’s how you do right by both you and the project. For our Sketch Evangelist Tiago Alexandrino, this was one of the most important lessons he had to learn in his career.
“Ask everything, explore more, and test more. Most importantly, don’t give up if you can’t achieve what you want — have some rest and try again. If I feel blocked in the designs I’m working on, I simply stop and come back after resting and clearing my head. But you also have to keep in mind that sometimes you might try and try with no results because you really can’t get more out of it. It’s a matter of knowing how and when to stop and evaluate.”
Use emotions to cut through the noise
Did you know the App Store has over 2.2 million available apps? That’s a lot of competition. But people find new favorite apps every day! So, how can you make your app stand out from the rest? For Tapbots’ UI Designer Mark Jardine, it’s all about focusing on the emotional connection your user can have with your design — an emotional user experience, if you will.
“How the app feels (by which I mean UX and interaction design) is probably top of my list. I probably put more focus on how our apps feel to use than the design itself. I’d consider myself a pretty average designer. I think my strength is in seeing the whole picture and being able to do a bunch of things well enough to provide a nice package as a whole.”
The secret behind success is iteration
So let’s say you follow all these tips and still find yourself in a rut — it’s bound to happen! Congrats on being human. As with everything in life, you’ll always face challenges in your design career. But if there’s one thing you can take from this post, let it be LookUp’s designer and developer Vidit Bhargava’s wisdom on trying again.
“When starting with app development, it’s easy to get demotivated by initial failure or not being able to meet expectations on the first launch. But what I’ve discovered is that the initial response to an app is a small part of a much bigger journey. Constantly iterating, striving to be better and staying curious is what makes the process fun and rewarding.”
We hope these tips help you get started with your design career. And if you’re looking for an extra push, we have tons of resources for you!
We’ll leave them here, but we encourage you to bookmark them so you can go through them at your own pace.
- Sketch 101 — learn how to design in Sketch while grasping the basics of vector editing, styling, and more
- Design Tutorials — browse through our library of design tutorials covering everything from how to use shapes to creating your own wireframes
- Sketch Tutorials — pick and choose from our list of Sketch-based tutorials to start creating illustrations, widgets, emoji and more
- Beyond the Canvas — receive a monthly curated newsletter featuring industry news, tips and tricks from experts, and design events for your calendar
- Sketch Labs — get hands-on experience with feature testing while helping us make Sketch better for everyone