When do you Consider you are a Successful Designer?

So when do you consider you are a successful designer -
book When you are making good money?
When you enjoy what you do?
When you win awards?
When you go freelance?
When you own your own company?

This is a subject posed by Lauren at http://www.laurenmarie.net who said
I struggle a lot with seeing other designers who have been around for 5 or 10 or 35 years and thinking “Gosh, I wish I my designs were that good.” It’s hard to keep in mind that they have been at this for so many years and I am brand new. I want to be that good now!

I have been working as a designer for about 15 years now, these are my answers to Lauren’s questions

1. How did you get started in the business?
I went the traditional route in the UK, general art and design course (foundation) followed by an HND in Graphic Design. I can remember being totally elated when I got my first job after sending off about 100 letters and CVs. My first job was a graphic design one year internship in the marketing department at the college producing marketing materials.

2. What kept you going in those early years?
I had always wanted to do something related in some way to art – at five years old I wanted to be a famous artist. I sold a few watercolours at 14 years old but the famous artist thing didn’t quite work out :) .

I have always moved jobs a lot, I am not necessarily saying this is a good thing but after a couple of years, once I had learned all I could at a company, I would move somewhere new. This meant I was constantly learning new things and working on different projects.

3a. Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or you would never make it in this industry?
One of my worst moments, when I thought I should perhaps give up was while I was still at college. One of my tutors suggested I go and see a design company in Leicester to show them my portfolio. They completely ripped me to pieces saying I would be unlikely to get a job in the industry.

3b. How did you work through that?
It was something I wanted to do, I couldn’t think of anything else I would have preferred. I knew it was all worthwhile when a few years later I went to an interview for a design job at another company. The company interviewed me and said they were interested in me coming back for a second interview with one of the other directors. I asked to see their portfolio of work and realised my work was better than theirs, so turned down the second interview.

4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?
That’s easy – yes.

I used to work at a company where I sat next to a designer, who to be honest was the best designer I have ever seen. He could make the most beautiful layouts you have ever seen and it was effortless. I would sit there for twice as long and it still wouldn’t be as good. He was wasted at the agency we worked in, he should have been working in a big city agency. Seeing loads of fantastic online designer’s portfolios makes me green with envy too.

Whereas new designers worry about their lack of experience I am always aware that I need to stay in touch with what is happening in the industry. I need to try and learn some of the new technologies and become more au fait with web development.

5. How do you measure success?
If you are happy doing what you do, to me you are successful.

6. By your standard, do you think you are successful?
In the sense that I have always wanted to be a freelance designer and work from home, yes.

In the sense that ultimately I would have liked to have made my fortune by now with a big idea and have loads of free time, no :)

I would love to hear other designers’ answers to Lauren’s six questions and so would like to start a meme – “When do you Consider you are a Successful Designer?”. To take part just answer the 6 questions as listed above. Please give Lauren at http://www.laurenmarie.net a mention. Anyone who would like to take part is welcome to, but to start things off we would like to tag:

Vivien at http://www.inspirationbit.com
Johno at http://www.redsil.com
David at http://www.davidairey.com
Char at http://www.essentialkeystrokes.com/
Charity at http://www.designadaptations.com
Paul at http://www.paulenderson.com
Steve at http://www.cymru66.com/
Ahsan at http://www.ars.barelyaverage.com

I hope some of you have time, no problem if you don’t I know you are all busy people :)

Thank you to everyone who is taking part, these are links to some of the posts:

David Airey’s post
Paul Enderson’s post
Char’s post
Vivien’s post
Randa’s post
Marc’s post
Aaron’s post
Charity’s post

This entry was posted in Freelance Graphic Design, General Graphic Design. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

31 Comments

  1. Posted May 22, 2007 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    WoW, thanks for the tag. You’ve just added another tab to my blogging debt :-) I’ll try answering Lauren’s insightful questions in a not so far future.

    I enjoyed reading your answers, Tara. You’re not the only one who wishes to be as good as some really talented designers. For instance, I wish I was as good as you with Graphic design :-)

  2. Posted May 22, 2007 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks Vivien, I look forward to your post. Thanks for the compliment – I wish I was as good as you at web development and design :)

  3. Posted May 22, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Welcome to the Mutual Admiration Society. Please mind the gap. Blimey – why don’t you two get a room?

    ;)

    Thanks for that tag. Working on my finely-scripted reply as I type this… Well, not literally – I only have one keyboard.

    Sorry… One of those days. :)

  4. Posted May 22, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Tara,

    Thanks for the tag! I’ll put this on my to-do list.

    Great idea and article..

    –Steve

  5. Posted May 22, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Ha ha Paul..
    Why do men always have to think like that? ;)

    No problem Paul don’t worry if you don’t have time – anytime within the next hour will be fine :)

  6. Posted May 22, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Steve – Thanks, I look forward to reading your post

  7. Posted May 22, 2007 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    How’s 40 minutes? ;)

  8. Posted May 22, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Good idea. I’ll write something later…
    In the meantime, I think this pretty much sums it up:

    If you are happy doing what you do, to me you are successful.

    Success is a yardstick peculiar to oneself. No need to use someone else’s.

  9. Posted May 22, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the mention, Tara.

    I’ve written my thoughts on the questions and have linked to the post in my name above.

    I hope my words are at least a little interesting.

  10. Posted May 22, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Tara, I had to feel satisfied right a long with you when you said you saw that your portfolio was better than the company you were trying to get a job with and you were able to turn down that second interview. What a confidence boost! Awesome! I’m glad you didn’t get too discouraged (enough to quit) when you went for the first interview. What I have seen so far of your work is beautiful and inspiring. I’m thankful you persevered because now I get a chance to learn from you!

    Your observation about the difference between newbies and more experienced designers really stood out to me. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of how I can be better in touch with my industry, instead of focusing on how little experience I have. I would say blogging, especially with an international group, is a big step in that direction. I find it encouraging to read other people’s thoughts and opinions about the beginning of their careers. Thanks to all of you who have or will take the time to answer these questions!

  11. Posted May 22, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Tara – thanks for tagging me! Since you and Lisa have both tagged me then I really need to get on this soon. Let me give it some thought and I’ll get a post up.

  12. Posted May 22, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Char

    I’ll look forward to reading it, whenever you get time.

  13. Posted May 23, 2007 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Tara – I take great comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who gets “green with envy” when I look at the work of other designers… thank you for sharing that! :) I suspect we all experience that feeling, but so few admit it. Seems like I come across a lot of designer/blogger types who are so vain it’s repelling.

  14. Posted May 23, 2007 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Hi Charity

    I don’t know if you noticed but I tagged you on this one, would be great if you get chance to write a post with your answers to the questions above. :)

  15. Posted May 23, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I did notice Tara, thanks. Need to give it a little more thought. ;) I’m not as quick as Paul! lol

  16. Posted June 6, 2007 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    I really will have a go at this, as soon as I get a spare minute – thanks for the tag and links – you’re gem.

  17. Posted June 6, 2007 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Hi Johno,

    Thanks, I’m looking forward to reading it.

  18. Posted June 6, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I just re-read my comment; do people still say “gem”? I’ve lived in Japan so long that I’ve forgotten.
    I’m looking forward to writing it too.

  19. Posted June 7, 2007 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Johno,

    I know what you meant :)

  20. Posted June 27, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    More important than what I say is what my clients are saying. If they are saying that I am a successful designer… it’s OK. :)

  21. Posted October 18, 2007 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    When things start to move. When the new jobs are coming regularly.

  22. Jay Lim
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    1. How did you get started in the business?
    Designing flyers for club promoters.

    2. What kept you going in those early years?
    Curiosity, opportunities such as universal records, bad boy records, paradise theatre cocerts, nightlife promotions, and now BMW.

    3a. Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or you would never make it in this industry?
    No, but i did feel disrespected and underappreciated (F*U halo media).

    3b. How did you work through that?
    Won an account with BMW.

    4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?
    Yes!

    5. How do you measure success?
    Doing what you love and making a living.

    6. By your standard, do you think you are successful?
    No, I’m just extremely fortunate to build my portfolio and resume with top companies and even celebrity clients while getting paid, something that most college kids are not doing.

  23. Posted October 25, 2007 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Jay, thanks for your contribution.

  24. Posted August 18, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    For me as a printer and designers the two ways on measuring success is that you make good money and win the occasional award.

    In other words I feel successful because I am doing better than the other businesses in my county doing a similar thing.

  25. Posted August 20, 2009 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Hi, I found this article very appealing. I am a freelancer who loves and wants to work at home since I have a kid. I just love the part when you said: “If you are happy doing what you do, to me you are successful”. It is correct, success is not only measured by the money you earned. It is important also that you love what you are doing and it shows in your face or in the outcome of what you do. So success is when you are happy and you make other people happy with what you do.

    Karen

  26. Graeme
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Hello All,

    I really enjoyed the article, thanks. I was wo9ndering if it is possible to study at home in Graphic Design? I am only an amateur and learn a great deal from web sites and blogs such as these. Any ideas will be more than welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes
    Greme

  27. Posted September 16, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Graeme

    Thanks for your comment. Take a look at one of my other posts http://www.graphicdesignblog.co.uk/can-you-teach-yourself-graphic-design/ which may help you.

  28. Graeme
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello All,

    Thanks Tara. I’m really going to look into all the resources and help on the link, they look really good. I was just wondering though, if you are self taught as I basically am in web site design, how do you say explian to someone that you are actually self taught. Would peole not be looking for a qualification when hiring a designer?

    Than,ks so much.

    Best wishes
    Graeme

  29. Posted September 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Graeme

    Now as a freelancer I never get asked for my qualifications, but I do have to show a portfolio so my work has to sell my services. If you are going for full time positions I guess its more difficult as you have to get past the CV stage, when its all what is written on paper. I am not really sure how you get round that one apart from to have a really good folio of work.

  30. Graeme
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Hello Tara,

    Thanks and thanks again. You now have another regular blog visitor. Keep up with all the good stuff.

    Best wishes
    Graeme

  31. Posted December 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Your observation about the difference between newbies and more experienced designers really stood out to me. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of how I can be better in touch with my industry, instead of focusing on how little experience I have.

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