7 Habits of Highly Effective Graphic Designers

Many people often believe there is a secret to being successful and effective in their lives and careers. The truth is that many of these things are fairly straightforward and often it just comes down to productive habits. Within creative services there are common habits and trends among those who are successful. So today we are going to pull back the curtain and dive deep into some of the 7 Habits that Highly Effective Graphic Designers have, and why they are important.

Challenge yourself to see how many of these traits you actually have!

  1. Prioritize Good Communication
  2. Understand Selling Psychology
  3. Are Prepared for Success
  4. Have Established Processes for their Work
  5. Learn New Things Quickly and Often
  6. Empathize With Others
  7. Have a Positive and Proactive Attitude

Prioritizing Good Communication

Communication is a fundamental cornerstone of design. It is more important than color theory, gestalt principles, and knowing the difference between tracking and kerning. You can be an amazing technician as a designer or production artist, but if you can’t communicate well, you can’t deliver on the brief. It also means that if you are in a position as an Art Director, Creative Director or Manager, then it will be difficult for people under you to follow your directions and be successful at their tasks.

It’s important that you have good written and oral communication skills, so you can work effectively with clients, employers, and other creatives. It will also improve the quality of your design work, since you will be able to get your ideas across to a target audience by translating the brief into something meaningful and actionable.

Understanding Selling Psychology

Often designers forget that they are marketers and consider themselves to be solely artists. While it does take artistic ability on some level to be a good designer, remember that form follows function. For most employers and clients, function often means sales. As a designer you have to go beyond developing something that looks good, and create something that alleviates the customer’s anxiety about spending their hard earned money. Apple is great at this. They can sell a huge volume of premium products because their sense of design and ability to frame the message in their advertising has helped them create a brand that people can’t wait to be able to afford!

For designers, selling psychology comes down to really being able to understand the target market and how to communicate to them effectively. This also means creating a great user experience, something not limited just to web designers. Print and other digital media are in fact an experience, and effective designers will make sure those experiences reflect positively on the brand and drive sales.

Be Prepared for Success

Highly effective designers are very self-aware. They know their strengths and weaknesses. This may surprise you if you’ve assumed that they are simply good at everything. Preparing for success means having systems in place to be successful, such as a good library of resources like stock images and fonts. If you’re a freelancer this may involve knowing how you’re going to get clients, or what you will do in a slow month, or knowing what your rates are. It can also mean knowing what you can’t do at all and having a plan to deal with it; such as someone to pick-up your work if you fall ill, or people that you can outsource your weaknesses to.

Have an Established Process or Workflow

While each project is unique, experienced and effective designers have a process that has proven to be successful for that type of project that they can repeat time and time again. This ensures quality of work, continuity and high levels of productivity. If you have an established workflow and process for how you will tackle a particular type of project, it means you can communicate more clearly and transparently with your client or employer and set the right expectations.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be anything too elaborate. Often it can be as simple as having a 3-5 step process for how something gets done. Sometimes it may also include having certain things in place such as a client brief document, or a contract template that outlines what deliverable asset is due at a specific point.

Learn New Things Quickly and Often

In-house designers in particular have to adapt very quickly, and usually have to learn things the day they need to execute on them. Part of being effective as a graphic designer is not allowing this prospect to overwhelm you and by making adaptability and self-education a priority. Cultivating the ability to anticipate a need, and adopting a new skill or piece of information that will allow you to address that problem beforehand, will help you not feel anxious when new challenges arise.

Empathize With Others

Being a graphic designer rarely means flying truly solo. Even if you are a freelancer you will often collaborate and work hand in hand with your clients. Being able to truly listen to others and see things from their perspective is vital. It will mean you can work through problems more easily and overcome objections, but it will also give you more insight in creative problem solving.

If your designs are meant to be viewed by an audience that doesn’t share your background, this skill is even more important. You have to be able to intuit what will be appropriate to the demographic that you are designing for, rather than your own personal sense of style or taste. Designers who can empathize with others and anticipate their needs and desires, continue to be in demand and rarely feel insecure about their future.

Have a Positive and Proactive Attitude

This is something many creatives struggle with and is often the barrier to the success they want. Maintaining a positive attitude and a proactive nature and sense of accountability is important whether you are in-house or a freelancer. It allows other people to have confidence in you and the work you are providing them, while allowing you to also be approachable and someone they can share their ideas with. Being proactive and taking the initiative reflects well on you and positions you to be successful. Take stock of what will allow you to maintain a positive outlook while being genuine with yourself and with others.

Posted on: August 7, 2015

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See robertoblake.com

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