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Ivan's picture

21 suggestions for a successful design career

  1. Find the right place to gain as much experience as possible in the shortest amount of time. This may mean a small independent design studio, a large multinational or hopping jobs every 2 years depending on the available options you may have.
  2. Work somewhere that's worthy of your time and talent. Don't settle for any job.
  3. Put more effort into your job than expected and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic designer at your workplace.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others. We're humans and we make mistakes even when we only have good intentions. Don't allow such mistakes make you lose sight of long term goals.
  6. Be generous with your contributions to the team's work. Do not try to take credit for every idea you came up with.
  7. Persistence, persistence, persistence. Great work never just falls into your lap. You need to work for it, refine it, perfect it.
  8. If you clearly see you're going into the wrong direction with your strategy do not be afraid to stop and rethink everything even if it means you have to start everything from scratch.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money on even a modest salary. This will give you the freedom to change jobs when things go bad and will allow you to take meaningful holidays that refresh your mind and body.
  10. Commit yourself to constant improvement. Technology and the industry is developing really fast. You have to keep up.
  11. Commit yourself to quality. Do not ever settle for something less than your outmost best. Perfect your work till time allows.
  12. Your professional happiness isn't based on the number of awards or how much you make, but on the relationships you have with your colleagues and clients. Treat them with respect.
  13. Be loyal to your clients and your employer. It will be appreciated even by the competition.
  14. Be honest with your work. Never lie or mislead the audience. If you do you will feel miserable about your profession.
  15. Be a self-starter. If you identify an idea take charge and go for it.
  16. Do not blame others. If you're unhappy about something take the initiative to change instead of whining about it.
  17. Be decisive even if it means you'll sometimes be wrong. Trial and error are the best ways to experience, learn and improve.
  18. Be bold and courageous with your work. When you look back on your professional life, you will regret the the things you didn't do more than the one you did.
  19. Do not overestimate the value of formal education. Many successful designers never had formal design eduction. Real work experience is more valuable than any education.
  20. Eat healthy, do sports. Your mind and body are your only tools available to you. Do not abuse substances. Save them for those critical special times when you really need a boost.
  21. Don't take all advice for granted. Pick what's useful for you. Make up your own rules and change them at your will.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.'s picture
532 pencils

Thanks Ivan ;-) I still concider myself being in the spring of my career, so these suggestions are still very useful ;-)

About education, you're right, however the economy crisis (and the lack of job offers) might make this more appealing.

To anyone else hugely interested about these subjects (such as persistance, the lack of value of education, putting your work into quality and perfection) I suggest the book 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand.

Ivan's picture

Yes, the Fountainhead is an essential read for any artist.

visionfresh's picture
3 pencils

very nice list! thanks for it!

Art D. Rector's picture
3162 pencils

Yes - excellent list. #1 is the most important imho - it never ceases to amaze me how many young people will take a nothing job at an agency for the "prestige" over a serious job in a small company where you actually have a chance to use your skills and learn something.

You can turn #19 around as well - never UNDERestimate the value of an education. Yes, it's true you don't NEED one, but it certainly helps. When working with artists, I can always tell who has an educational background and who doesn't. There is a difference. And again - don't settle for "prestige" over a sound education. Find out which school really prepares their students for the business.

Ivan's picture

I agree, I assumed eduction is important for everyone. But you're right, some think none is needed.

jozefk's picture
249 pencils


Linux for open minds

steveballmer's picture
653 pencils

Good suggestions, you however left out the most important:

Stay away from Apple products, people will think you are gay!
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

Ivan's picture

Suppose it's true, what's wrong with being gay?

steveballmer's picture
653 pencils

Ask your parents
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

RonSper's picture
31 pencils


Leaky Penny's picture
2612 pencils

Stay classy Steveballmer.

Greta list Ivan! Definitely exercise! Keeps the mind sharp!

Leaky Penny
Check out what I've been up to lately!

I'm going to print it out and eat it.

-Unknown Artist

onegirlcreative's picture
1090 pencils

wow. i must say, i have not been on this forum in quite a long time and i love the new appearance and easy-to read graphics.

thanks, ivan for your wonderful suggestions and comments!

"I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint." ~ Frida Kahlo

carbonink's picture
2 pencils

very informative list .
Thanks for the great resources you provide us. Keep it up


digimat's picture
1 pencil

Really enjoyed the post, I think one thing you should add is surround yourself with positive and like minded people.

Lancelot's picture
12 pencils

"#12: Your professional happiness isn't based on the number of awards or how much you make, but on the relationships you have with your colleagues and clients. Treat them with respect."

This ought to be #1 on list. As people make their way to the top, too often, they forget it's the people around them that makes them shine.

byzade's picture
7 pencils

very information

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