Growing as a Designer and Leader

By / Mar 18, 2011 / Tips
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As a professional designer, it’s important to push ourselves daily to be the best that we can in order to create outstanding work. To be successful in our industry, we must continually grow and try new things that will enhance our design skills, and just as important, our leadership abilities. There are tons of ideas on the internet on how to become a better designer through Photoshop tutorials, HTML best practices, and new jQuery techniques. There aren’t as many about becoming a better leader in the design community, although it’s an important trait to have as a professional and a necessary skill to possess in our competitive industry.

Become a better leader

Leaders in every industry are considered trusted sources and experts in the field, which is a coveted spot for anyone and a great position to be in. Promote yourself as an expert and a leader in your community through different leadership positions and organizational roles. People will recognize your ability to lead and think of you when they need your services. Teaching others is also a great way to show your design knowledge and helps to further your own skills at the same time.

Leadership can also be a fulfilling experience, and is not solely about showing off and promoting yourself. Helping others learn a new skill or achieve something they couldn’t before, is a great feeling. It’s also fun to network with other professionals and connect people for the greater good of the community.

Push yourself

We’re taught to learn a skill and then use those skills to perform in our everyday profession. As a designer though, we must continually build our knowledge and never be satisfied with where we’re at currently. It’s important to be your own coach; push yourself and be persistent in your path for greatness. Keep looking for ways to motivate yourself so you don’t burn out or become tired. Finding rewarding and unique ways to get involved while promoting yourself is a great way to build skills and do something different from your everyday work.

Further the education of others

Strengthening your design and leadership skills is also about giving back and helping others, and sometimes this is the greatest way to learn more yourself. Remember, these ideas aren’t necessarily a means of making loads of money, they are about getting out there and meeting people in order to promote yourself.

Host a workshop

The workshop can be on learning Photoshop, basic HTML skills, or anything you feel qualified to teach. This gives you a chance to show off your designer knowledge to your local community but also gives you the opportunity to give back by teaching others and helping them further their skills. Knowledge is power, and it’s always fun to see others discover new things. Plus, they may discover that this particular skill is tougher than they thought and they just want to hire an expert (you!) to complete these tasks for them in the future!

Write a book

Getting published involves a lot of hard work, so don’t take this on and think it’ll be the easy idea on the list! But the results are rewarding, seeing your name in print and happy reviews from people that have read it, would be well worth all the work. Plus, it’s a really great opportunity to dig deeper on a subject that you know a lot about, since there’s always more you can learn.

Be a speaker at a conference

There are tons of local, regional and national conferences that go on every year with many quality speakers on a variety of topics. Make a list of what you would like to talk about and then look into different conferences to see what’s out there. Then connect with a contact person for the conference of your choice to see if you can get on the speaking list.

Help out the design department of a local college

Colleges and universities are always in need of help and inspiration from those in the field. Volunteer to come in to speak one day, run a workshop for them, or work on a project together. It would be a great way to connect with past professors or find new talent if you need to outsource some of your work.

Connect with people

Networking is a great way to spread the word about your services. In large cities and small towns you’ll find business people getting together to promote their businesses and learn from one another. There are tons of ways to connect with people, but it’s always a great way to find new business and learn something new.

Start a networking group

In a small or large community, this is a great way to connect with local business people that might not know about your design services. Many small businesses need affordable design work but aren’t sure where to look. Starting your own group is a great way to promote your services and be the star of the networking group because you’re the leader.

Create a collaborative design group

Getting together other designers is a great way to expand your ideas and come up with better and more creative work. A collaborative group can get together to share ideas, resources or work together on projects. It’s your group, and you can do as much as you see fit with it!

Become a mentor

Helping someone else get to the place you’re at takes some work, but is one of the more rewarding ideas on the list. Seeing someone achieve success with your help is a great feeling and knowing that you had a hand in their accomplishments is fulfilling.

Start a blog community

Community blogs are a great source of inspiration and knowledge for everyone in the design community from newbies to veterans. Starting your own blog community gives you the opportunity to connect with the design community in a big way. You’ll be the main person running the show so you can do anything you like your own way.

Growth is never easy but very rewarding and worth the effort. Try some different ideas and find things that will work for you in your online or local community. It’s important to keep growing in order to be the best at your job and keep providing quality work through the years. What ideas do you have to become a better leader and designer? Have you tried some of the ideas listed here?

About the Author

Shannon Noack is a designer in North Dakota and the Creative Director of Snoack Studios. Designing is her passion in life, she loves to create websites, logos, print work, you name it. She blogs regularly on the Snoack Studios Blog and you can connect with her on Twitter as well.

15 Comments

  1. Will
    March 18, 2011

    Nice article!

    I think a lot of these suggestions can be applied to other things as well when read more abstractly.

    Reply
  2. Vivek Parmar
    March 18, 2011

    becoming a designer is easy because only you have to command on designing languages and photoshop. But becoming a leader you need extraordinary quality and you already mention it (left no space for me)

    Reply
  3. Josh
    March 18, 2011

    “Promote yourself as an expert and a leader” is putting the cart before the horse. Some of the best leaders of history didnt spend time promoting themselves as leaders or experts. They worked hard, made critical decisions and LEAD without worry or concern if others followed, or liked them.

    Too many young designers, photographers, business owners get caught up in the hype of being the best blogger, tweeter, artist, what ever. They loose site of who they are and why they do what they love.

    Reply
  4. tijl vanharen
    March 18, 2011

    but before you can lead you must be an top designer :D

    Reply
  5. TheKoolDots
    March 18, 2011

    You Guys, you Guys,

    You Never fail to please when it comes to the balancing the self-development balancing along with the technology stuff.

    Believe That!

    Reply
  6. Dessign
    March 19, 2011

    Great article, yes anybody can be a designer, but a leader only very few ever become leaders in community. It takes dedication, knowledge, and passion. Being involved and helping others will get you started to become a leader.

    Marios

    Reply
  7. bob marteal
    March 20, 2011

    Thanks for the thoughtful ideas. I’m fortunate to have a position at a large university where i constantly get to visit and teach users the details of content and our CMS. It keeps things fresh and the wacky experiences i have along the way keep things interesting. It also keeps me in touch with my users and out of my web designer blog fog.

    Reply
  8. Dee.ie
    March 20, 2011

    Excellent post, information should be shared, information should be collected and distributed with the equal vigour.

    I find it amazing what you take for granted that you think people know, but when you attend a conference or lecture you see just how little information people actually know.

    Leading is never an easy task, keep the flow alive…

    Reply
  9. Susan Paquette
    March 20, 2011

    This article makes me want to start a local support/networking group for illustrators like me. I network online often-twitter and blogs but hardly anything is in person. Maybe something through meetup.com? Has anyone else started a local support group where they are? has it lasted?
    I already have leadership skills from being an art teacher for the last three years. I taught at summer camps and after school programs regularly. I’m trying to get my own art career going again.

    Reply
  10. Andretti Brown
    March 20, 2011

    This is was so helpfully to me. I am just starting to do events now, but I will plan to reach out to schools soon. Thank you for the post.

    Reply
  11. William Choi
    March 22, 2011

    Great inspiration.

    Reply
  12. Shannon
    March 23, 2011

    Thanks for all the group feedback everyone! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    @Josh – I agree with you, being passionate about your work and good at what you do are both more important than being the most notable person in the industry. The article was merely giving people ideas on how to become a better leader in the industry as well, something we don’t often talk about. Being the best designer you can, without caring about what others think is important though, good points.

    @bob marteal – that’s great! Teaching others is a great way to learn more and stay on top of things ourselves. That’s wonderful that you get to do that.

    @Susan Paquette – you should do it! Meetup.com is an excellent idea, I’ve been a part of a handful of meetup groups and have enjoyed them quite a bit. I haven’t been a part of a design group through meetup but I love idea of it. Good luck with getting your art career going again, getting involved in some groups would be a great support system for you!

    Reply
  13. Liam Gallagher
    April 15, 2011

    Great post Shannon!

    Reply
  14. Depain
    March 20, 2012

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a good article… You really rock…

    Reply
  15. Kenn Schroder
    January 20, 2014

    Hey Shannon … of late, I’ve found “Connect with people” to be the most valuable to me.

    Over the years I had been more of “on my own” – a bit of a lonely path.

    Also, being visible and connected does help with getting more work/leads/projects.

    I write about being around your target market, on getting seen as an expert which is
    great for attracting the “better clients” and not the bottom -feeders!

    Good connections are great for fun, realness, and growing. It’s great to enjoy
    a chat with others, to share a smile and see what others are doing.

    I like your stuff here.

    ~ Kenn

    Reply

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