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What makes a good graphic designer?

We look at some of the qualities successful designers share.

This street artist's work is striking - but would they have what it takes to make it as a designer?
This street artist's work is striking - but would they have what it takes to make it as a designer?
Image: Unsplash

WHILE THERE’S NO secret formula to becoming a top graphic designer, there are certain traits that contribute to your success. Whatever stage of your career you’re at, these are the qualities you’ll need to set yourself apart from the competition and excel in the design industry.

1. Communication skills

The ability to navigate briefs and work with different stakeholders is a critical part of the role of a designer. Whether you’re working for an agency, a startup or for yourself you need to be able to articulate the elements of each project, push back on deadlines, negotiate rates and present ideas coherently.

If you’re a freelancer you’ll likely have to build up a network of potential clients to ensure a steady flow of work. Your ability to market yourself can be key to securing jobs, so be sure you can articulate what is it you have to offer.

2. Analytical mindset

Design is about more than artistic flair, it’s about solving problems through your work. It’s about critically analysing each stage of a project to ensure you’re staying true to the brief and brand guidelines – and ultimately, producing work you’re happy with. You need to be honest with yourself when it comes to assessing the quality of your output and ask yourself how you can continue to improve.

3. Adaptability

One of the most important traits a designer can have is adaptability. You can’t be too rigid when it comes to process or techniques. With new technologies constantly changing how we create collateral, designers need to be willing to try new things and incorporate new ideas. The most creative output will come from pushing the boundaries and challenging your own capabilities.

4. Determination

To be successful as a designer you need a certain level of resilience and determination. Feedback is an essential part of your creative development so you need to be receptive to critique and be able to bounce back from criticism. That said, you also need to have the confidence in your own work to effectively push back on edits or instructions you feel are unnecessary.

5. Market research

Keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry. Are there events you could be attending to network, get advice, learn about emerging technologies or meet potential clients?

As well as that you need to educate yourself on production processes beyond design. If you’re creating a marketing brochure, for example, think about how it’s printed, displayed and distributed.

6. Curiosity

The best designers ask questions and want to know why a certain campaign needs to be executed. They don’t settle for a standard brief, they look for a greater understanding of the bigger picture too. How will the messaging affect the company’s brand awareness, product recognition or audience engagement?

7. Reliability

Good design requires imagination and innovation – but it also requires high levels of discipline, organisation and consistency to ensure you’re meeting deadlines, staying within budget and delivering on campaign expectations. Even creatives need to set limits around ways of working!

More: Have you got creativity phobia? 5 hacks that might help>

More: The most important tips for managing any creative team>

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About the author:

Aoife Geary

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