Dear Design Student: You’ll never get worse at design

How to bridge the gap between taste and skill

Photo by

When most of us are just getting started on our design journey, we tend to look at other designers and put their work on a pedestal for various reasons (skill, fame, social media presence, etc.).

We seek out design heroes, assuming they were born with a creative gift we lack, hoping to uncover their secrets. But, like anyone pursuing a new creative or technical endeavor, those “heroes” probably started from scratch just like us (and we both sucked at it).

So if you find yourself failing early to produce quality work, I’ve got good news for you: You’ll never get worse at design as long as you keep working at it. The key to success is putting in the work, every day honing your ability to perceive gaps and ways to improve your skillset.

Radio personality Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, spoke on this idea with a famous piece of advice on good taste and falling short that started: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.”

Taken from a series of videos on storytelling, Glass argues that most of us who do creative work come to it because we have good taste. But at the beginning of that journey, there’s a gap between our taste and our abilities. We’re trying to do good work for the first couple of years, but it’s not so easy to pull off. Or, as Glass puts it: “It has the ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.”

He continues: “Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work, they went through years where they had really good taste, and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.”

Sound familiar?

But you still have your taste. And your taste is good enough to tell you that you’re not quite there yet, so a noticeable “gap” forms between the two. This early gap awareness often leads to doubting abilities — or a crushing case of imposter syndrome — and the people who don’t know how to navigate it will often quit.

If you weren’t aware, almost everyone struggles with imposter syndrome — that inner doubt that makes you feel like a fraud — at many points in their career. I still do, as do most of my colleagues. Trust me: Anyone who tells you otherwise is either full of shit, or a complete narcissist. That’s a hurdle that can only be overcome by an awareness that it’s probably not going anywhere.

Similarly, if you’re just starting and already feel like you’re stuck in “the gap,” just know that it’s normal, and there’s an actionable way to cross it. As Glass puts it: “The most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline… It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.”

To those of you who feel you’re already a master of your craft: The concept of “practice makes perfect” will always be applicable to help you extend your skills. I often have students come to me who are getting ready to graduate with a degree in graphic design, or young professionals who’ve been working in the design field for a few years, seeking advice on a common question: “How do I get into UX design?”

Most of them feel that their traditional print design education didn’t adequately prepare them for — what they see to be — the next level. They don’t understand how to translate the design principles they learned to another design field. My advice is always the same, and it won’t surprise you: Practice.

If you want to design websites for a living, no one will hire you to do this if you’ve never designed a website. So design some, and don’t worry if it’s for a paying client or not. Seriously.

But, first, look at how others have done it and deconstruct their solutions. Find commonalities. Put yourself in their shoes and see if you can figure out what they were thinking when making each design decision.

The goal is first to understand, and understanding comes from a wide range of sources. Once you understand how someone else used a grid, or why they made the typeface choice they did, you’ll be able to apply this same line of thinking to your next project.

If you’re not sure what good design is, then go look at a bunch of design. That’s how people learn. Young designers often think that being a creative person means coming up with ideas in a vacuum. But ideas and inspiration don’t just come to us out of nowhere. In reality, ideas come from what everyone else has done before. They’re born from what we’ve seen, what we’ve read, what we’ve heard… what we’ve digested and remembered.

And it’s ok to mimic the things you see, as long as you don’t forget this is just practice to help you close the gap and get you to the point where you can concretely answer the question: Am I getting any better at this?

Today, I’m able to look at my student portfolio and have a good laugh. And one day so will you. But I’m also able to appreciate it as proof of the hard work I put in over my career. And every time I’m faced with a new gap, I know what I need to do to close it: Keep studying, keep practicing, and keep kicking imposter syndrome in the teeth.

Read the full article here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Create an Automated Customer Research Machine in 2 Hours

Create an Automated Customer Research Machine in 2 Hours

Table of Contents Hide ‍What to Talk to Customers AboutHow to Find Customers to

UX Study Case Edutech : Acourseline

UX Study Case Edutech : Acourseline

UX Study Case ini adalah salah satu challenge dari program Skilvul UI/UX Design

You May Also Like