What makes a great designer? Is there some secret formula? However, when I study and watch successful designers, I see common qualities. Working at a creative agency as a senior graphic designer, it has proven to me that there are eight qualities of a great graphic designer.
Who likes to be told how doing something better than or different from the way we were taught? Usually, we start to short-circuit and lose our cool. But what if they’re right? What if that Photoshop trick saves you three hours of production time?
Many great designers started out very humbly. They want to learn from other graphic designers. Every new skill was valuable for them. They became sponges and took it all in. They took notes and tried new things. They were receptive and grew because they listened to the people around them. There wasn’t an attitude of pride or arrogance, but a conscious decision to be humble, to be teachable.
Criticism is a tricky thing. As a designer, we must learn that when our work is under criticism, there’s no need to take it personally. There’s no reason to get defensive and make up lame excuses. Be receptive and open-minded.
Great designers are curious. They observe, take notice and make notes of things others overlook. A designer loves the special moment when he finds somebody implementing a new solution to compensate for poor design. Observation is the most primitive and pure form of research. Research brings purpose to our actions. Designers observe. Ask any successful designer and they’ll tell you they were willing to learn and explore new design tricks.
Aspiring graphic designers choose to pursue a graphic design degree or one closely related, such as Web design, photography or illustration. Typically, employers hiring graphic designers look for a minimum bachelor’s degree, although some require only an associate degree or certificate. While during learning, graphic design students should start the process of building a design portfolio full of the student’s design work to show to future employers.
With advances in technology, graphic designers perform a majority of their duties on a computer and should be comfortable working with different types of computers, including both Macs and PCs. They should be familiar with a wide range of design software, including Page Maker, Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver. They should also be familiar with printers, scanners and cameras, as these tools are also used often in the graphic design field. Some graphic designers do Web design and development and must be able to use HTML and Web-building tools.
Without communication, solutions would remain in the mind of a designer and never have a chance to make a positive impact on the world. Designers communicate by sketching, making models, using computers, writing, speaking and any other tools necessary. Communication skills are vital and understated requirements for working with a team to bring a concept to life. Great designers are great communicators.
Great designers are unbound by rules. Designers need to understand social norms, expectations and limitations of manufacturing, marketing and other aspects of design implementation. However, rather than being limited by beliefs, precedents, and expectations, great designers are open to the less-than-obvious solutions to problems. Rather than forming a belief of what a solution can or can’t be, a great designer will often ask, “What if?” and “Why not?”. Designers often see rules as guidelines. This freedom of thought is what many call it creativity.
Great designers have an understanding of the world around us. They seek out solutions to real problems and have a desire to make the world a better place. Great designers know how to share their ideas and make them real.
I believe that great designers share these seven common qualities. I’m sure there’re quite a few more qualities that can be added to this list. What are some that you would add? I’d love to hear about them.