There are many skills graphic designers, like anyone else, can benefit from. But there are a few that are essential to being a successful designer.
1. Time management skills
Time management is the ability to get things done in an appropriate amount of time, knowing what can be done within a given time period, and being able to say “no” when appropriate. Most people get in trouble because they don’t account for the right amount of time they need to get something done, don’t know how to negotiate, and don’t plan around other tasks.
It is critical that designers have the ability to plan and implement their work on a timely basis. We need to be good planners, because clients and bosses are under pressure to get their projects done on time. Designers need to know when deadlines are achievable and know how to respond appropriately when they are not.
The average person rarely listens. But designers need to be expert listeners.
Most non-design clients and bosses find it hard to say what they want from a designer. They know what they want the project to do for them, but aren’t sure how to visually make this happen. So the boss might tell the designer what she wants, expecting the designer to use their skill to produce it.
However, designers need to be aware that what clients say is not always what they mean. Designers listen with their ears, their eyes, and with good questions. A designer can’t settle for vague generalities and design requests. Designers need to know they have a solid understanding of the project parameters and objectives, so they can produce results for the client.
3. Handling criticism
This is the biggy. Everyone receives criticism from time-to-time. But who loves getting criticized?
Designers, on the other hand, get criticized almost all the time. Bosses and clients don’t care how long, difficult, or thoughtful a designer’s work was. All they care about is what they want. Criticism for designers is like getting wet from being in water. It’s just the nature of the design profession.
A designer who knows how to handle criticism is valuable to a client. Designers who handle criticism well tend to listen patiently, give proper justifications for their decisions, and ask good clarifying questions. They have the ability to overlook an offense when appropriate, separate good from erroneous feedback, and draw useful feedback from the client.
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