7 Tips For New Designers


Are you a new designer entering the workforce or starting your own freelance business? 

Maybe you’re a new designer and you've already landed your first design job (Congrats!!).

If so, here are 7 tips I've learned through my own experiences over the years while in college, working in the professional world as a student, freelancer and landing my own design job as an in-house designer.

Make sure you grab your FREE Ai Key Command Cheatsheet too! 😉



Develop confidence, but not overconfidence.


“I don't know why I know so much, I just do.”

No joke. Those words ACTUALLY came out of a new employee's mouth… to their boss.  😦

They were uttered brightly to my mother (who was the head Conference Director in the education department for a credit union with branches in several states) ...and my Mom was training this girl to take her place after announcing her own retirement. 

😂 Please don't be that person, by accident or otherwise. 


If you aren't careful this one can be a double edged sword. While overconfidence is generally considered a bad quality, warranted confidence in your abilities & decision-making skills is always a good thing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you become confident in performing the job.

Overconfidence can cause employees to make decisions too quickly without considering all the possibilities beforehand, which leaves room for error. Don’t be that person.

Insecurity is also undesirable in an employee, because this can prevent the employee from making necessary decisions on their own, especially in a stressful situation or fast paced work environment.

Having confidence in the workplace means you:

  • can walk the fine line between overconfidence and insecurity

  • are confident about what you do know, while being open to new ideas

  • make well thought out decisions

  • own up to your mistakes, and learn from them


Be open to learning new ways of doing things.

The way you learned to do certain things may not work well in whatever job environment you end up in. 

You will learn a LOT more through your work experience than you might think, so pay attention and be willing to learn from your coworkers.

You will always be learning something new, even after 20+ years in the profession. Why? Trends change, our software and operating systems update constantly, and each company does things differently. If you're flexible and you're always eager to learn, you'll do well no matter where you go!


Learn to be PATIENT.

I cannot say this enough. An impatient designer is a bad designer, from the client’s perspective.

You know that old saying, "patience is a virtue?" It is, and you will need to develop a LOT of it! If you're not a patient person, start working on that and apply to places where there are dedicated people to handle client relationships so you don’t have to. Or if you’re freelancing, be prepared to hire someone to handle this communication for you.

If you went to college, your graphics professors are/were probably designers themselves, and your classmates were becoming designers as well. Most of your constructive criticism came from people who knew (at least a little about) how to give you effective feedback.

You likely have little to no experience working with people who may not be able to communicate what they want. Most clients have trouble visualizing what we see naturally, and don't know what terminology to use in order to communicate what they want.

If you can learn to be patient and try to put yourself in their shoes it will be a tremendous help! For more tips on interacting with clients and guiding them to give you helpful feedback, read 9 Ways To Give Your Designer Effective Feedback too.


Always meet your deadlines! 

I had classes in college where the professor was lax about project deadlines, with constant extensions for students who couldn't ever seem to complete the project by the due date. I've also had professors that never gave extensions, except in emergencies, and failed students on projects that were incomplete by the due date.

One of those professors was actually doing the students a favor (though admittedly it didn't feel like it at the time) and the other was not. Can you guess who was teaching the students an invaluable lesson? Bingo! You guessed it; the strict one.

This should be obvious, but in case it isn't: deadlines are a part of every single project. If you don't meet them, it creates problems and it can even put your job in jeopardy. Whether you're creating promotional materials for an event and they don't get delivered on time (or something seemingly more trivial to you) it makes everyone look bad and they'll be frustrated with you for “slacking off.”

This job often comes with an expectation of long hours, because most of your clients and coworkers don't understand the time involved in creating our work. Do what you need to do to get it done on time (within reason) and everyone will be happy. If that means turning in a rough draft because you don’t have time to turn in a print or publish-ready design, do so but warn them that it’s not complete yet so they don’t think you’re turning in half-assed work.

Roughs are meant to show that you are, in fact, making progress and gives them the opportunity to tweak things before you waste valuable time going in the wrong direction if it’s not what they had in mind.


Design with your client in mind! 

Don't ever forget who you're designing for (it's usually not for you). Very rarely does the client say, 'I don't know what I want, so you have free reign!'

Clients come to us for a reason and each client has certain expectations they're counting on us to fulfill. Talk with them, discuss all the details, and put yourself in their shoes. Before you get started on it, try to imagine what they would want for their business. When you do, you should be much closer to that picture in their head on the first try.

If you have trouble with that (and even if you don't!) create a questionnaire for the client to fill out. Ask them specific questions that will help set you on the right design path for them, and let them list things they do and don't like (colors they'd like to see, what qualities they want in their design, what their time frame is, etc).

Fellow freelancer, Nesha Woolery has some great advice on mapping out the design process! You can check out her post here.


Use your design time efficiently.

I touched on this a little earlier with deadlines, but here it has to do with design time. I once had a boss that knew nothing of design software, was in his late 60's (40 years older than me, at the time) and he insisted I learn every possible key command to be a faster designer. (I'm still not sure how he even knew what key commands are! 😂)

Admittedly at the time, it was irritating! That job wasn't complicated and the designs I worked on were mostly creating very basic 1 or 2 color designs for print, or recreating a company logo for printed products that got covered up anyway (like the printed logo on house wrap and roof underlayment fabrics, etc., both of which get covered up by other building materials). I was already pretty fast, because what I worked on was very simple.

BUT, in the end he was right –even if he didn't know exactly how right he was! Those key commands have been extremely helpful for me over the last 10 years and I'm grateful he was so insistent that I learn them.

Now when I'm designing, one hand lives on the keyboard, and the other on my Wacom Tablet! Knowing those commands shaves off precious seconds each time I use one. When working in a deadline-oriented profession, every second is a precious commodity!!


Download the Ai Key Command Cheatsheet!


Choose design elements wisely. 

Think carefully (& quickly whenever possible) about every design decision you make during a project.

Why are you choosing this typeface or that color, etc. You should have a reason for everything in the design, other than just because YOU "like it" (because, again, you're not designing for yourself!)

Putting that much thought into each design will help you deliver a much more effective product for each client, and it will give you an edge on your competition, because not everyone does this.