5 Things to Keep in Mind

Dear Young Designer, 5 Things You Should Keep in Mind.

By Ayomide Onasanya, Founder, Acumen Digital.

I trust this finds you well. 

I write you this series because I truly understand the struggle of pivoting from good to great. When I started out in my design career, I had to learn a lot of things the hard way. Over the years, I have collected a number of experiences that I think are worth passing along. 

I hope you learn a thing or two.

1. You won’t always produce Dribble-Worthy Designs.

I know this may sound strange, but the reality is even the best designers have to compromise with a lot of things in the world of work. You will create designs that you are not proud of and that is totally fine – don’t beat yourself up. You will produce designs that look good today, and tomorrow, you’re asking who made this horrible design. 

However, you can still win with these not-to-great designs by ensuring the experience is optimized for conversion. Your focus should be on the right metric which is solving business challenges with your design; if you are able to do this even with compromising design quality, you’ve won—just not the way you want to.


Photo by Harpal Singh on Unsplash

2. Be Flexible with your ideas/process.

When you start out, you will receive some thumbs-up and a lot of thumb- down on your ideas and approach to problem-solving. Don’t let the thumbs-down weigh you down. Instead, ask yourself critical questions like “why might this design direction not work?”, “Why does the other solution work?” and “how can you apply these to related design problems?”.

Your ability to keep an open mind when it comes to your ideas and that of others will help you go far real quick. The most important questions to ask are the “why questions”. Once you know why, it would be easier to design creative solutions.

3. Be patient, it takes time.

Like with everything, it takes time. The best designers were once beginners. You will need a lot of time and patience to produce high-quality work. I see a lot of young designers make the mistake of focusing on the shiny finished designs on Dribbble rather than the process. 

You see, when you understand the process, you can create amazing things—even by glancing through several designs, you can describe how a design style was achieved. Learning and mastering this takes time, however, once you get the hang of it, you are set for life.

4. You will need an eye for good design. 

Forget about using excessive shadows for a minute, and take a look at some of the leading products in today’s market – AirBnB, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now, try to analyze these products end to end and think, for example, about why the designers opted to display certain menus, first, on mobile. 

Think about how everything on the product is interconnected, think about how the business makes money and how the designers ensure the designs help the company increase revenue.  This exercise will sharpen your mind and give you a more “productified” mind and approach. 

You can also develop your design eye by thinking you were the designer of the product. Look at everything, one by one and then as a whole. The easiest way to distinguish between a junior and senior designer is their use of typography, spacing, colour and alignment. If you can train your eyes to look out for these attributes in your design, you will almost always produce stunning work.

5. You won’t always follow industry best laid out processes. 

In the real world of work, your clients will not always have the budget to accommodate your design process. Take heart, it is a universal challenge. You will still be expected to produce quality work that converts even if they have a tight budget. 


Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

While you might be able to get away without performing user testing on some projects, the experience and data you have gained from another user testing will come handy when you are making design decisions on projects where you know you might not really be able to test with a lot of users.