7 Things I Wish I Had Learned in Design School

Posted on  1 May, 2017

We have to learn to walk before we can run”. A very famous quote by none other than E.L. James.

When I graduated from the design school, armed with my flashy degree, I almost felt like a conqueror. Well Almost. In my head, I thought that since I have mastered designing I would soon become a star designer, working with dazzling clients and for the most recognized brands in the world. The reality was far from it.

Fast forward to a couple of months, I joined Lollypop and that is when the truth hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that I need to cover crucial, fundamental things before I can brand myself as a complete designer. When you land your first job, your portfolio doesn’t matter; the bitter truth is it won’t even help you succeed in your designing career.

In the real world, teamwork, client skills, communication, social aptitude, output speed, and business ethics all play an ENORMOUS part in cementing you as a successful designer. The lessons I learned while being on the job is as crucial as my degree.

Working at Lollypop has taught me many things that design school didn’t. Here are seven really important pointers that you should learn at the very beginning, even before you start your job hunt because trust me when I say this my fellow designer brethren & sistren, our lives will be so much simpler when we master them.

Soft skills

Oh, I know what’s going on exactly in your mind. You must be like, “Wait a minute here, I am an artist, why in god’s name do I require soft skills?”. Many designers harbour this false thought that designers are only meant for designing. Well, here comes the shocker- Besides designing we also need to articulate our ideas and thought process. In every design that we craft, we need to explain the ‘Why’ in it, and if you are unable to articulate why you made a decision, your clients will be less likely to be persuaded by something you are unsure about. Furthermore, we need to interact with our team member, superiors, management and with people from other profiles, hence it’s imperative that we learn etiquette’s and how to carry yourself in a business environment.

Soft skills

How to manage clients

Presenting your designs to your client isn’t an easy job, and do you know what’s more difficult than that?  Managing various clients. To manage clients, follow one rule of the thumb- listen. Don’t just hear, but listen, in order to fully understand your client’s views and feedbacks. Listening not only helps to understand exactly when your idea has been bought but also when not to go for the over-kill, especially when it is dead in the water. The ability to be receptive to feedback and responding positively is also crucial in managing your clients and getting the job done faster.

Function overlooks

A crucial fact of the design world- you cannot get away by just designing pretty websites, they need to be functional and development friendly. Furthermore, in the real world websites are built for results and not just to please one’s aesthetic sense. Hence, we design websites which will not only look good but also appeal to your target audience and keep you high above the competition. Because like it or not, end of the day websites is meant to build a brand, drive traffic and leads.

Function overlooks

Coming up with new ideas

As a designer, we are constantly asked to come up with brand new ideas, and at times we are required to come up with several different iterations for one project. It can be quite saturating believe me! And during those times to break the cycle, we brainstorm with our team members and try to find a fresh perspective which helps us to quickly come up with a lot of ideas, variations and angles.

working on new ideas

Looking at the larger picture

In our design schools, our professors often give us adequate time to finish a project. But while being on a job we need to work on tight deadlines. We designers often forget the essence of time and are easily caught up in the little details and nuances of our craft. A necessary skill is to be able to zoom out and see the larger context for our designs. The purpose of our design- Where is the user and what do they care about? What is the technical framework? How will the design provide value to users and to the business? Asking these questions will help us focus on the job at hand and be agile.

Looking at the larger picture

Find your own style

Design school often involves a lot of specific briefs for a specific product and that resulted in ending us up more or less with similar designs. Don’t get me wrong, it did fetch us good grades but every now and then we need to challenge the brief and find our own style and way of doing things. Your unique way of approaching the project. It’s important to find that you find your own style to stand out from the crowd!

Find your own style

For all the people who battled drowsiness reading this blog, the road to glory (read: Star designer) is not going to be a smooth one, but fret not folks. This blog is your cheat sheet. Working hard and educating yourself outside the classroom will put you ahead of the game after graduation.

Moral of this long post: Be the captain of your own ship, my friends, and never let the learning stop.