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What No One Told You About Design

What No One Told You About Design

University is supposed to prepare you for life after college. It’s there to train you for what is to come in your work environment for years to come. For the most part, design school does a great job at this, but there are still some places it lacks. The list below, “What No One Told You About Design” captures them all in all their glory.

1. Unrealistic Deadlines

Whether you are an in-house designer, agency designer, or work on your own as a freelancer, there are always deadlines. Jobs need to be completed. And deadlines need to be met. Most are realistic. But others, not so much. As a responsible designer every effort should be taken to meet your deadlines, but sometimes pushback is a must. Expectations need to be reset. And turn-around times adjusted to allow for a more realistic timetable. That’s where your bosses and clients come into play.

In your career you’ll work for many different types of bosses and clients. Many wanting the project completed as soon as possible. And most won’t fully understand what is involved to take a project through to completion. It’s your job to educate them on the process. Hopefully settling realistic expectations for all.

2. You’re Not Designing for Yourself

In fact, you’re probably about number 3 or 4 in line. The order, as I’ve come to learn it, is your boss (internal stakeholder), your client, the market, and then you, the designer. Some would argue this order, but I’ve found it to be more or less true.

Your first client on every project is your boss or project lead. Everything must first get approved internally. Sometimes that’s no easy feat. Other times you’re on the same page right from the beginning.

Once you and your boss are pleased with how you are solving the problem for your client, then it’s time to impress them directly. Your design should reflect what’s best for that project and that client at that particular moment in time, and hopefully a long time after.

After you’ve successfully produced for your boss and client, now its onto the larger market. You goal is product-market fit. And to be ahead of the market. But how far out is too far? 6 months? 1 year? More? The market will let you know.

Great, so you’ve made your boss, client, and the greater community wanting more. Pat yourself on the back. That’s no easy feat. Now it’s your turn. Finally. Did you achieve everything you wanted on this project? And you push your skills to their limits? Was something new learned? And are you happy with the outcome? It’s always important to keep pushing yourself as a designer. Learning new things. New ways to accomplish your goals.

3. There is a Lot of Math

On the surface, math and design don’t seem to be likely bedfellows. Or even living in the same house. Design is about grabbing people’s attention, keeping it, and eliciting an outcome. Math is a numbers game. Pun intended. 1 answer for every problem. How do design and math relate? What many individuals fail to understand is that design cannot live without math. The patterns. The balance. The symmetry of a page and how your eye is guided throughout the piece. All of it has roots in math.

4. Great Design Takes Time

And revisions. Many, many revisions. A process in which the designer defines the problem, researches it, forms ideas, prototypes and tests possible solutions. The process has become known as the design process. The process itself started out of the desire to come up with a creative or practical solution to a given problem. It’s an iterative process where you can bounce around different stages easily to further develop your idea. All this takes time. Once the process is completed, a better understanding of the problem and your client will emerge. And once you know the problem, or problems, your path to a solution is simplified.

5. It’s All About Your Portfolio

Many people feel it’s your network that will get you your next job. Especially as a graphic designer. That’s partially true. But the majority of it is your online portfolio. Your portfolio allows you to be found online and will offer potential employers a glimpse into your abilities. For those reasons alone it must be stunning. And only showcasing your best work. You should also know each project inside and out. Competition is cutthroat. The next person is just as good as you. If not better. Why should a company hire you? Let your personality shine through. Let your skills and confidence be your saving grace.


There’s nothing quite like your first job out of school. The new surroundings, the adjustment to real life situations with real world consequences, and new relationships with bosses and clients. University does its best to prepare you for all of it, but it can only do so much. Much of your education occurs in your day to day encounters. And if you come into our job prepared and expecting the unexpected, you will undoubtedly set yourself up for success. And people enjoy success stories. Be sure to tell others what no one told you about design. And you’ll help others along the way.

Photo by 85Fifteen on Unsplash