1. Start On Paper First
Don’t expect a creative idea to pop out of your computer, try pen and paper first. Sketching and brainstorming are essential when starting a project. If you don’t know what your doing or where you want to go put your main idea in the center of a piece of paper and surround it with related words and keywords. Spend a good 15-20 minutes doing this to get your brain started and your ideas flowing.
2. Be Confident
Even a brilliant idea can’t sell it’s self. You have to be confident when you are talking about your product or design. One of my favorite designers, Randy Lewis, always quotes, “Your perceived value is greater than your actual value.” In every meeting I have been in with him he makes sure to educate the client on this. This logic goes the same for us designers, if we walk the walk, talk the talk, and value ourselves and our skill- people will trust us and believe in us more than if we just sat there with a kick ass port. Having a great portfolio isn’t everything. You have to not only sell it, you have to sell you. What is also interesting is that some companies may hire the more relatable and personable designer even if the portfolio lacks a little. This varies from company to company but in general this is a good skill to have.
3. Save sources of Inspiration
It’s important to create your own database of inspiration and resources. I have notebooks in Evernote, folders in my tool bar titled, “Design, Resources, Branding, and Cool Stuff” and pin boards on Pinterest. Whenever I get stuck on a project I’ll spend 30 to 60 minutes looking at different resources to find the right solution to my problem. Some of my favorite websites of inspiration are fromupnorth.com themeforest.net and lovelyui.com
4. Organize your Layers!!
Apparently being a good designer means having clean layers. I hate this, I hate this so much. I have to say it is one of the biggest problems I have. Organized chaos is my what I call my work flow and even though it makes sense to me, its important to keep in mind it has to make sense to someone else without having to explain anything to them. Organization is key, lists, layers, and bookmarking are your friends.
5. Don’t do what everyone else is doing
Now of days its difficult to create something different and unique. It’s all been done before. Really explore your options and do your research before starting a design. If you are still getting stuck pull out some paint and make ink blots, scribble on a piece of paper with a brush, or create shapes without lifting your pen. There are a lot of traditional techniques that designers have forgotten because we are so stuck to our computers. Try going back to the basics and let your mind wander. A good book to check out is 100 Designs that changed Graphic Design.
6. Do your due diligence.
This means push your designs as far as they can go, even if you think you’ve got it right in the first try, and do your research. Become the expert at what you are working on and really dig deep into each possible direction. If you don’t push yourself to explore the possibilities then there is a chance you will fall short when you present your work to a client.
7. Know how long it takes you to complete each project.
Time management is a good skill to have and knowing how long it takes you to complete each project is equally important. It allows you estimate more accurate deadlines and price out your projects better. At work we use a service called cashboard. It helps us log time to see how long we have worked on a project and from that we us that data to price our services.
8. Know how to talk about your work and know how to explain it.
If you know how to talk about your work you can point out what is wrong with it, things you can do to improve it, and sell your work better. But knowing how to talk about your work starts with an understanding of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Everything in design should have a reason and you should be able to break down those reasons to explain it.The logic behind a design makes the design stronger and sells it better.
9. Print your work out on 11×17 paper or 13×19 paper
In this case bigger is better. If you are presenting to a client ditch the 8.5×11 paper and print everything out as big as you can. If you are showing logo variations, mockups, wireframes etc, it overall looks more impressive and is easier to view on bigger paper. Showing your work on bigger paper has a ‘wow’ factor when you flip the paper over in a meeting with your amazing designs on it.