Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a graphic designer just getting their start, you’ve likely struggled with creative self doubt. Lack of confidence can be a powerful motivator; driving you to learn more to perfect your craft. But for many, it’s damaging; resulting in design block or even worse, causing you to question your chosen profession.
My journey as a graphic designer
I’m going to tell you a little secret. I never went to design school. And although I was able to hack my way to a successful career as a graphic designer, design confidence was something I definitely struggled with.
Because I do not have “formal” design training, I was afraid that somehow made me a fraud. Looking back now, I can see how silly this mindset was. I was proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite, and although I didn’t love everything I created (which is totally normal BTW!), I did get compliments on my work. I also had happy clients.
So how did I gain more confidence as a designer? By living by these three principles:
Avoid the comparison trap
Unless you’re the Leonardo Da Vinci of the design world, there will always be someone more talented than you. This can be incredibly intimidating when you’re starting your career. (Who am I fooling, it still can be intimidating!)
Instead of feeling inadequate when you see beautiful design work, look to it as inspiration. I credit this mindset to the the book Steal Like An Artist, where the author frankly explains that most art is in fact inspired by someone else’s brilliant work.
And with society’s tendency to only showcase our best designs, that designer you put on a pedestal likely went through several drafts and iterations before the piece was perfected.
Check your ego
When you design something, it’s personal, which is why criticism can often cut you to your core. Design feedback is an important and necessary part of the creative process and learning to take it in stride will save your sanity and your career.
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to get paid to create only things we love. Clients have their own design expectations and you won’t always agree with their feedback. But at the end of the day, they are paying you for a service, so it’s your job to create something they like. And on those rare occasions where you really don’t like the end result, simply exclude it from your portfolio. 😉
Practice makes perfect
You could be the most creative person in the world, but unless you’re proficient in the tools (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite, etc.), it will be difficult to make your design vision a reality. I remember when I was first learning the design tools how frustrating it was to create even the simplest thing. But as my Illustrator and Photoshop skills grew, my work began to look a lot more professional. The more you practice using the tools, the more advanced your skillset will become and this will certainly be reflected in your designs.
If you’re just starting out, I would definitely encourage you to take as many courses and tutorials as you can to increase your skills. Because once you get over that initial learning curve, you’ll feel a lot more confident about your work.
So now that you know a little bit about my design journey, I want to hear about yours. Do you ever have feelings of self doubt? How did you gain confidence as a designer?