After more than 15 years in the industry, a client base that stretches across the globe, and several companies to my name, I still strive to improve my design skills.
The joy of working in a creative but applicable field like design is that it’s always shifting, changing, growing. If you miss developments, you’ll be left behind—and catching up can become impossible.
But the benefits of constantly seeking improvement don’t end with the personal. By staying abreast of what’s happening in the design world, challenging yourself, and continuing to learn from others in your field, you’ll be able to bring the absolute best product to the table for your clients.
Whether you’re not sure where to start, or you’ve become so pro you don’t remember the basics, here are three simple ways you can continue to improve your design skills:
1. Diversify your clients, your work, and the industries for both.
A few years ago, I was working with a Salesforce competitor called High Profit on a UX project. Our main focus was making sure that it was more aesthetically pleasing than the one Salesforce offered. Our client’s functionality was already incredible, but by comparing it to the competition, we knew customers were also expecting killer visuals.
Part of the learning here was that good design isn’t based on just one aspect—it isn’t just aesthetics and it isn’t just UX. 10 years ago, you could design an interface and leave the user to puzzle it out themselves. But things have changed—users demand a much more catered experience. They not only want an intuitive interface, but they want to enjoy using it.
Because of my work with High Profit, I know how the consumers in their industry engage with design. I can now cater projects to fit those needs going forward.
The key to diversification is not getting too comfortable with one type of work just because it pays well. At the end of the day, if you aren’t being challenged and expanding your network, it won’t be worth it.
2. Network—but not just with designers.
Find work you love—art, music, books, movies. Then find what it is about that work that inspires you. Is it the color palette? The rhythm? The hairstyles?
Now incorporate those things into your own work.
Do this again, but with designers you admire. See what they’re doing that’s successful and find ways to incorporate it into your own projects. Reach out—ask to pick their brain and get advice.
I do this constantly. And not just with other designers. Sometimes, you can learn the most from talking with people who work in close proximity to design but aren’t necessarily designers by trade.
One of the startups I work with has a very talented team of developers. By talking with them about their experiences on the back end of design, I’ve been able to pick up a lot of valuable expertise that makes my design skills stronger.
3. Stay flexible and adaptable at all times.
The design industry frames the way people see the world. Sometimes technology disrupts that view, leaving us to change and iterate.
So, we have to be adaptable.
For example, some of the UX elements that have worked so well for mobile apps in the last few years have since been adopted for desktop platforms and websites. This means that web designers now have to learn some elements of mobile design in order to stay ahead. You can’t just be one type of designer anymore.
In a creative industry like the design world, you have to be ready to pivot and then implement on a moment’s notice without dropping the ball. It’s like being a tightrope artist or a tango dancer—but with technology and style elements instead of spandex and sequins.
Sounds crazy right? But that’s the fun.