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9 Things Graphic Design Can Teach You About Life

Graphic Design Life

There are moments in life in which a person can learn important lessons and apply it in life. This also applies to one’s work life. Our work allows us to be introspective and question who we were, are, and who we are becoming. Graphic design is no different. The list below is obvious to those within the profession. If you’re starting out or looking in from the outside, there are 9 things that graphic design can teach you about life.

1. Question Everything

As a designer, it’s your job to make sure everything has a purpose. And that the general rules for design are being followed. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start questioning what you’re doing. And why. In turn, you can take step back, pause, and reevaluate your process. Why you do what you do? Many follow the rules to a T. The great ones know when and how to bend or break those rules. They also know how to get the best out of themselves. Life must be like this too. You need to push yourself. And not become complacent. You need to brush up against the edge of your comfort zone. Step past it. Even for a moment. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.

2. Explore the Possibilities

When you start questioning everything a whole new world opens up. What was once off limits is now within reach. In life, just like in design, there are multiple paths you can take to get to your final destination. It’s the journey and the process in which you become who you are. Both as a designer and a human. Without exploring the possibilities you’ll never know what you are capable of. Or what’s even possible.

3. How to Deal with Criticism

No one likes criticism. Even the best designers in the world don’t like criticism of their work. But everyone needs it to get better. It’s how you take it in and what you do with it that will separate you from the average designer. Realize that feedback is a gift. And those critiquing your work are trying to help you.

4. You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Do

There are few things that you need to live your life. Food, water, and shelter. Most everything you come across are the non-essentials. Same is true for the designs you create and the tools you use to create. Immense industries have been created to separate you from your money. They insist that you need this and that to be a better designer or person. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You are the same designer with or without the latest technology. The technology will only help you create you artwork faster. It won’t make you a better designer. Or a better person.

5. Plan First, Then Create

The best designers always come prepared. They research the client, the project, and the market for which they are designing. Same should be true in your personal life. Although you don’t want to over plan life, it does help to have an idea of what you want out of a given situation. Your goals. Or aspirations. Short, medium, and long-term. Being prepared for what life throws at you will not only make you a stronger person. It will also make you a happier person in the long run. Envision your life and how you want it to play out. That way you won’t get off guard.

6. Growth Comes From Experience

Reading about how to design for mobile first is one thing. Coding for mobile is a whole nother experience. Being there at your desk, coffee next to you, and coding @media queries or writing classes for a tablet or phone will grow your design chops. Become the developer. And that’s true in life, going out and learning something you don’t know will help you grow as a person. Imagine if you didn’t learn from experiences in your life. You’d get burned both figuratively and literally. Over and over. You are who you are today because of your experiences. Your personal growth. Embrace the experiences. Good and bad.

7. You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

As a designer, you will never please every single client. Let that sink in for a minute. The odds are against you. But you can, and should treat every client with respect. Your customer service should remain the same regardless of the situation. Same with life. You most certainly won’t get along with everyone you meet. Some relationships will be easier than others. And in some you’ll be tested. Really tested. It’s your values that will come forward in how you handle the difficult situations.

8. Pay Attention to the Details

Many designers obsess over the details. It’s their job to do so. So much so there’s a term for when designers are sweating those details. It’s called “pushing pixels”. Making sure every last element is accounted for. Down to the pixel. It helps to be a good project manager too. It will undoubtedly carry over to your personal life. Use it to your advantage. It’s this work obsession that will allow you to picture your significant other’s smile, laugh, or mannerisms when they’re not around. Or the joy of seeing your daughter take her first step. Where you were and what the mood was. It’s those details that will allow for an even richer experience and memories for years to come.

9. It’s Never too Late to Fix Something

In the advent of today’s digital technology it’s easier than ever to correct something on the internet. Everything on the internet is a living, breathing document always available for updates. If something gets pushed live that’s incorrect you have the ability to fix it real-time. Even print material is fixable. It may cost more to fix, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fixable or shouldn’t be fixed. Same is true in real life. It’s never too late to fix something. Whether it’s an apology or another problem within the household. Most everything fixable. It may take more effort, know-how, or time, but most everything in life can be fixed given time. It may be the most difficult thing to do, but the important one usually are. Do the right thing and fix what needs fixing.


When you’re starting out as a designer, it can be easy to be intimidated by other designers or clients. Your surroundings are new, the people are new. And you have new responsibilities. Soak everything in. Even the larger picture. That’s where the lessons are learned. Work tends to mimic life’s intricacies. Use this as a starting point. Keep your own running list. I’m sure there’s more than 9 Things that graphic design can teach you about life. But your off to a great start. While you’re here check out my post on What to Expect of Your Graphic Designer in Today’s World. It’s written for the customer and covers what a customer today should expect from their designer. It’ll offer you insight into the designer / customer relationship and allow you to see it from another perspective.

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst