There are plenty of bad designers out there, but there are also lots of good ones. A good designer is someone who has an eye for what works and what doesn’t; they’re more than confident with their design skills and can adapt to what’s asked of them. Being a good designer also has a lot to do with the way you work. Sure, you can’t teach good design, but it never hurts to learn a few new tricks, or simply make the most of your talents.
But if you’re looking to become a great designer, you need more than just mastery of design skills and a good eye. For great designers, good isn’t good enough; they’re always striving to do better, learning more, and to make their designs and the best they can be. Great designers have an understanding of the world around us and seek out solutions to real problems; they have a desire to make the world a better place.
To go deeper into the subject of good vs great, here are four key traits that set apart truly great designers from their more mediocre counterparts.
Good designers don’t like to be told how to do something better or in a way they’re not used to doing it. Their egos won’t let them leave their comfort zone. But what if that way was easier, did a better job, or shaved off production time? Great designers are humbler; they become sponges and take in the knowledge that’s given to them. And if that’s not enough, they search it out; they look for the newest trends, technologies, and inspiration from other designers. By being able to set aside their egos, great designers stive to be better than good enough.
Great designers simplify
Keeping things simple can be harder than it sounds but knowing what’s good and what’s necessary in a design can make you a better designer. If they see too many colours, they bring it back to monotone or dual-tone. Using more than two fonts or two that are similar? Well, you shouldn’t be.
A great designer also uses minimalism to ensure they have the right amount of what’s needed in their designs. They take care of white space, worry about contrast, alignment and contemplate over every small detail. Great designers establish order, even if it means breaking from traditional design.
A critique is not an insult
It’s easy to get frustrated by a dissatisfied client or a creative director who is very critical of your work. Criticism is a tricky thing. As a designer, we need to learn that when our work is under criticism that it’s not personal. It’s something in the design that they take issue with and there’s no reason to get defensive or make up excuses. Be receptive and open-minded. Great designers take criticism with a grain of salt. Listen to their feedback and try to understand their needs; get married to the problem, not your solution.
Don’t be afraid of failure or the need to rework their designs. And before you hand your designs over, learn to critique it yourself. Look for issues that you may have overlooked and ensure that what you’ve created fulfills the clients’ needs and that of their consumer.
Great designers think about the user
Good designers are eager to win awards and design something because they believe it will be the best. Great ones, however, put themselves in the shoes of the user. They obsess over the ways they can improve the experience. Should the navigation go there? Is that the best way to find something? Does this stand out enough. They’re problem-solvers who deliver results.
A great designer needs to improve what already exists, disrupt current patterns and search for new ways to solve challenges. There’s nothing wrong with being a good designer, but without the need to understand and evolve, design becomes stagnant and will disappear into the background.
If you have a trait that you feel makes a good designer great, share it below or on social media.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.