5 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Designer

 -  6 min read

With my one-year anniversary at 88 Brand Partners approaching, I find myself meditating on things I’ve learned over the past months. I clearly recall ringing the 88 doorbell, fidgety and anxious for my impending interview, as if it were yesterday. Despite my nervousness, the interview went just fine, as you might gather. But there are still a few things that I wish I knew when I was at that vulnerable time in my life. Which is why I’ve decided to impart some knowledge to any of my fellow designers out there who are just starting out in their career. Here are 5 things I wish I knew as a new designer:


1) Listen better

“I wish that when I was starting out as a designer I knew to listen better. I would almost immediately jump to begin creating solutions for the problem, often before the client or CD or Account Director was finished briefing.” — Joe Popa, Executive Creative Director at 88

It’s a common mistake that a lot of young designers make. You jump on Designspiration before you’ve even read the creative brief, or maybe you’re sketching in your notebook instead of engaging in the kick-off meeting. Our eagerness to create often distracts us from understanding the problem at hand. Pay attention! The more you know about your client’s background and objectives, the more capable you’ll be when you have to sell your ideas to them.

Our eagerness to create often distracts us from understanding the problem at hand.


2) Face your fears

My fear of public speaking runs deep. You could imagine my utter disappointment when I quickly learned that selling an idea can be just as important as creating a good one. And until I stepped into my position as a designer, I figured I could skate by without really having to face this fear. As so many 12-step programs tout, the path to recovery starts when you acknowledge that you have a problem to begin with. Admitting to myself that my fear of public speaking could inhibit my career as a designer was tough, but it drove me to seek and embrace the opportunities when I could practice. It can still be uncomfortable at times, but I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since I started.


3) Your opinion is valuable, too

“While it’s advisable to be open to criticism and feedback, it should never make you question your abilities. Your education, experience and portfolio of work more than vouch for your talent and expertise.” — Conor McGowan, Design Intern at 88

In an industry chock-full of colorful personalities, it can be easy for meetings to be steamrolled by your more vocally assertive colleagues. While being a good listener is important, it shouldn’t stop you from offering your unique point of view when it’s appropriate. I remember feeling like my opinion was less valid because I had the least experience in the room. Since then, I’ve learned that big ideas can come from anyone, regardless of how many years they’ve been in the industry. Your outlook on a creative solution can help your team members see in a way they haven’t before. Diverse perspectives only serve to create a richer work environment.


4) Keep your portfolio up to date

As an alum of Chicago Portfolio School, I was eager to put the days of perfecting my book behind me once I got my first full-time gig. I now know plenty of working creatives who regret not keeping theirs up to date, myself included. The longer you put it off, the more daunting the task will seem. It’s also good to add projects as they’re completed, because it’s always fun to show people what you’ve been up to.


5) Find your work besties

Take the time to get to know your new coworkers, because you’ll likely be spending more time with them than your own family. Building genuine trust with the people around you serves to create a positive work environment that you’ll look forward to coming to every day. Your work besties can better relate to any of the worries you encounter on your day-to-day, so they make for the perfect support system. So take a break from your computer and have a face-to-face conversation with a human every once in a while. It also doesn’t hurt to find a coffee break buddy that you share an inside joke or two with. It’s a beautiful thing that you get to know these individuals that you wouldn’t have otherwise met outside of work, so embrace it.