Are hard skills the guarantee that you’ll become a successful graphic designer?
For sure, your technical knowledge can help. But it’s not always the deal-breaker. Sometimes, your personal qualities determine whether you’ll land that sweet job or even your first graphic design project. At least, this is how it was in Sarah Lockwood’s professional journey.
A Ferris State University alumni, Sarah gave an interview to her school’s representative, sharing her story of becoming the graphic designer developing apps for Delta Airlines.
In the interview, Sarah shared that the thing that helped her get noticed was her persistence. She tried to remain in contact with people after applying for various jobs and eventually was offered a position at an advertising agency, which gave her the Delta Airlines contract.
Sarah’s story proves that personal qualities sometimes play a more important role than hard skills if you want to become a successful graphic designer. After all, you cannot assume that people will know automatically how good you are at what you do. First, you need to establish a rapport with them, build a relationship, and then you might get the chance to show your skills.
But this story also makes us wonder – what are other personal qualities you might need to become a successful graphic designer?
Let’s take a look.
Many graphic design students often romanticize this job. However, there’s hardly anything romantic about the reality of sitting in front of the computer the entire day.
Right now, you might argue this point, saying that creativity can make the routine easier. But, graphic designers still can experience creativity drought, and then you can only rely on perseverance.
The very term ‘perseverance’ is about being able to push your limits even though you experience difficulties or delays in achieving the final result. Graphic design projects are often about being persistent rather than relying too much on creativity.
Jim Towe, another Ferris State alumni, agrees that perseverance is an important personal quality of a successful graphic designer. In an interview, he shared that perseverance was the only thing that pushed him to sit 6-7 hours in front of the computer just to finish his digital novel project.
There’s another reason why perseverance is so important for a successful graphic designer. In many situations, especially if you’re a beginner, you’ll have to start over. Often, you’ll have to start over too many times, which will have a negative effect on your creativity. In this case, perseverance will be the only thing to keep you going.
Persistent attitude often goes together with adaptability. This phrase was shared by another graphic designer Alicia Varga in an interview with her alma mater, Colorado State University.
As the first woman in her family to ever go to college, Alicia had no one to learn from, how to be adaptable. Yet, after starting school, she quickly realized that resilience and adaptability are important in reaching her goals. She ended up graduating first in her class.
Then, Alicia took her adaptability to work. First, she wasn’t allowed to have a project of her own, but she didn’t protest this decision and kept learning. After two years of experience, she finally got her own project for the Children’s hospital.
It’s important to stand your ground and ask for better job opportunities. But it’s also important to adapt to the situation if you know that you still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. It’s also true for graphic designers – you need to learn how to be flexible.
As a graphic designer, you’ll have a chance to work with a lot of people, which is exciting and scary at the same time. Unfortunately, not every client will be a darling to work with, but you’ll still have to deliver a good result.
Here’s where being a good listener can pay off.
In your work, there will be many situations in which you’ll have to work closely with your client. Discussing design briefs, working on revisions, asking for feedback – all these situations need your ability to listen closely to the needs of your client.
Besides being a good listener, you’ll find that a successful designer needs a whole set of communication skills:
On top of that, in case you’ll have to deal with a difficult client, mediation skills will also play an important role in helping you resolve conflicts. As a result, a successful graphic should always be the master of communication.
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. This popular quote belongs to Albert Einstein, who always was a supporter of open-mindedness in people.
Being open to different opportunities is an obvious perk. This way, you’ll always have a job and a chance to keep improving as a professional.
You may think of open-mindedness as an optional personal quality. However, a graphic designer cannot reach success if they refuse to be flexible.
The very essence of a graphic designer’s job is to be able to view one thing from different perspectives. But open-mindedness is also a quality of a person that is eager to keep learning. And continuous education is essential for a successful graphic designer.
Olivia Monagnese, a Humber College alumni, has learned the importance of being open-minded from her own experience. In her interview with Startups Geek, she shares that she took every design project while being at college, which ultimately helped her land jobs with several companies in Canada.
Being open-minded is about taking an opportunity when it presents itself. But it’s also about being ready to learn from different people and situations, no matter how tough they are.
Today, graphic designers often work freelance with different clients from around the world. These clients sometimes look for professionals in graphic design who also speak a foreign language. And sometimes, this skill is essential to complete the project.
So, to become a successful graphic designer, you need to possess knowledge of at least one foreign language. For instance, all English speakers might want to start by learning basic Spanish vocabulary since this language quite popular. And English should be a priority for all non-English speakers.
If you know at least one foreign language, it is also an excellent booster for your resume. Graphic designers who speak a foreign language will always have a competitive advantage over their competitors. Hence, you have more chances to get the job of your dreams.
This personal quality is connected to adaptability and being a good listener. The job of a graphic designer presupposes work with people, and if you cannot take criticism, it will be hard for you to achieve success.
If you find it challenging to receive criticism and constantly feel offended because of it, put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Of course, the ability to take criticism is more of an acquired personal quality; you cannot be born with it. But if you remain open-minded to your client’s needs, you’ll have no problem receiving criticism as well.
But what if you have to deal with unconstructive criticism?
Indeed, not every comment about your work will be valuable. Sometimes, feedback can even be hostile.
Unpleasant clients are not the only factor that can cause stress. Graphic designers have to deal with many other situations that might make them feel agitated – project presentations, pressure from the upcoming deadline, design fails, and simply feeling like everyone is better than you.
What’s the solution in this case?
The answer is resistance to stress – a personal quality that every successful graphic designer should have. It doesn’t mean that you’ll become immune to stress. In some cases, stress can even be good for your job success. Stress resistance is more about knowing how to deal with difficult situations with minimum loss of nerve cells.
Unfortunately, there’s no single formula for becoming resilient to stress. But try to study every stressful situation and your reaction to it, in particular. Your response to stress should be conscious. Otherwise, stress will become chronic.
Is challenge good or bad?
It’s hard to tell for sure. Some people run away from challenges because they cause too much stress. Others invite challenges with open arms. These people have more chances of becoming successful graphic designers.
If you think about it, the first project of a graphic designer that’s just starting their career path is a challenge. Every project after that is also a challenge since you have to keep growing your professional portfolio to get a good job.
So, a challenge is essentially an opportunity to learn. And, if you’re not excited about taking a challenge, you will feel agitated about the learning opportunity it brings. Thus, your new knowledge will hardly stick around in your brain for too long.
Excitement for challenges largely depends on your ability to remain open-minded. Once you accept that every situation is a learning opportunity, challenges won’t scare you that much. And, you’ll get valuable experience as well.
There’s one word that defines the job of a graphic designer – deadlines. There will be too many of them starting from your first project and up until you decide to retire. So, time management skills are essential for job success.
Being able to organize your time is also a quality that makes you stand out as a professional. No one wants to work with someone who’s constantly delaying their work. Besides, if you end up working on a product release, deadlines are essential – the company won’t put off the release just because you can’t manage time.
Time management involves an array of different skills:
At some point in your graphic designer career, you’ll have to use one of these skills. Also, your ability to manage time impacts your productivity and focus.
But before you learn these skills, you’ll need to change your attitude towards time management and understand that time means money. Only then time management becomes your personal quality, not just another skill in your resume.
Regardless of your job, reliability forms your professional image. The same is true for graphic designers – your success at work depends on how much your clients can trust you.
Reliability is a characteristic that unities many personal qualities that we mentioned earlier.
First of all, you are reliable if you are a good listener. Your client can count on your attention to detail and trust you with any project changes.
Besides, reliability is also connected to taking criticism. After all, your clients expect you to take all the remarks and continue working, not giving up because the criticism seems unfair.
Lastly, being reliable also has a lot to do with sticking to deadlines. On your professional path, you’ll have a lot of urgent projects. They pay well, but you’ll have to respect the deadlines.
It would be awesome for every graphic designer to have all nine qualities. Indeed, how much easier your life would be!
But if you can’t boast about having even half of these qualities, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream to become a successful graphic designer.
The good thing is that the majority of these qualities are not inherited. You can absolutely develop them if you work hard and learn from your experience.
We recommend you start with time management and resistance to stress. Then, try to develop open-mindedness and readiness to learn. These qualities alone will be enough to facilitate the development of others.