Today I am writing to you from my heart, blunt style. I am not afraid to share this, because I already got a feeling, that it cannot only be having those kinds of thoughts in the design scene.
As some of you might know, I just finished college and graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in Hamburg. My marks and final results are very good and my certificate looks very sophisticated. So, from the outside, it must seem like I really got my shit together now, and I am confident and well educated. Ready to start my first super amazing well payed design job as an employee, right?
CALL ME A SELF-DOUBT DESIGNER
But guess what: I do not feel ready at all. I feel small and slow at the computer between other design employees. I feel undereducated, scrolling through stepstone. That certificate fools you, big time, I haven’t worked in Adobe Illustrator for a year now. Even more confusing: I rarely sketch. I do not like art magazines anymore. And I kind of hate working in advertising. I am not able to create apps or websites (yet).
If you have high expectations on yourself, your skills, status or your payment – uff, you will struggle like me! I expected myself to be an amazing designer, respected and known by everybody. And I finally understood, that this is something, I will never reach, if I keep expecting that from myself a week after I graduated.
The design discipline and me have gone through a journey together (you can read more about my path in this article) and you as a designer, but also you as a reader, should understand that loving design and working in design does also mean to learn and challenge yourself constantly. There is no certificate in the world, that actually turns you into a good designer. But a good designer is someone who is executing his profession constantly. This summer I found myself in the exact opposite side of this attitude: In the end I was so blocked, I stopped designing at all.
It is a viscous circle: I wanted to create amazing designs and get amazing design jobs. As soon as I aimed for amazing, I was hesitating to start, because I was already fearing the moment when something I wanted to create didn’t turn out that great, as I wanted it to be. I didn’t start to design. I kept being a mediocre-blocked designer. I see myself as a loser, because I didn’t even really try. I will try even less next time. This went on and on until, like 4 weeks ago, I doubt my existence as a designer in general.
To save you from that experience, let me share my latest thoughts. It’s similar to all kind of arts: you are a painter, illustrator, photographer or musician, as soon as you produce and practice your profession. Make it your profession, by doing it every day. It is a romantic thought, that you go through a certain education and wake up one day, feeling like a designer.
You will feel like a designer, when you design. It sounds dumb, but this is how you build your design profession.
What we newborn designers experience a lot, is a superordinate Instagram effect: on behance, on the web and on social media, our designer friends share their successes. Their great designs, their rewards and their new job titles. What is not shown is failure. How many pictures did Picasso paint, which went right to the trash? How many sketches were drawn for some concepts, but never came out? It is really about producing and exercising, in 100 designs, there will be probably two really amazing ones. But if you try only twice, it is really unrealistic they both be remarkable and hitting the dezeen landing page.
And: Don’t cry. The creative field is tricky. I don’t say that to make these professions bigger than they are or just to make you feel better. I feel like creative jobs are not per se harder or easier than any other job, and I do think that you need to a lot more intelligence to work as a surgent for example – but the creative field is tricky because it is so wide and volatile:
With every new day there is the chance a new creative profession or specialization will pop up. Every day, people are able to add new fields to the field. Every day, creative people are creative. This means, that by the time you will graduate your first creative degree, the playground had already changed since you have started. There will be different software, different intersections to other professions and there might be already new forms of design. And a bachelor degree will just give you a rather basic overview on your design field for now.
So, what I want you to understand is: it is super okay not to be specialized on a certain software as you graduate. It is also super okay if you have no exact idea of where do you want to go with your education. And it is also okay, not to have a behance account and a portfolio which looks like you will be the next philippe starck (this guy by the way never graduated any art school).
That’s also making a point: getting the design education does not change so much. There will always be people, without a design certificate but great skillsets. And why? Because they did design. They tried. They acted on it.
Make them your teacher.
We are on this journey together and if we keep building up our high expectations because we aim for the big success right away, that will only do one thing for us: obstruction and paralysis.
If you are experience the same right now, don’t hesitate to connect. Write me an email and join me on instagram, I will adjust your view on perfomance and expectations, designwise.
We can share some fails and laugh about it together.