I hope the following tips will help you when doing design work for others, either as an employee or a consultant. For me, staying true to myself is really important, I’ve done some of my best work that way.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Or someone else will know it for you. You’ll be a puppet in someone else’s show.
If you don’t know what you want, you will never be able to stand behind your ideas and products. You will feel lost, decisions will take a long time and you will not be able to stay consistent in your arguments.
KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE AND WHY YOU LIKE IT
This is fundamental. You will produce consistent work.
KNOW THE RULES (SO YOU CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO BREAK THEM)
I mean if the company you work for has for e.g. a design language, of course you need to follow it, but if they don’t, it’s kind of up to you to introduce one, through your design aesthetic and push the boundaries of what can and should be done.
Always tell your opinion. Even if the result is not exactly what you’ve wished for, at least the team knows where you stand.
LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
You need to like what you design, otherwise do something else. If you don’t like what you put out into the world, how and why should everybody else like it?
WORK FOR A COMPANY YOU LIKE AND ADMIRE
I don’t need to explain this one. It’s obvious why and how much easier your life is going to be if you do.
ALIGN YOUR VALUES
Before agreeing on working for a company I’d dare to say that It’s better to have the same values as the company you will represent. It will be authentic and you will be so much happier.
HAVE AN INTEREST IN THE FIELD YOU DESIGN FOR
For instance if you need to design skiwear, it will be much easier if you know how to ski. You will be able to understand the end customer needs. Of course you can research a lot and meet focus groups, but the real feeling for a specific product won’t be there unless you deeply understand the usage.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT FEELING
If you somewhere deep down feel it’s the right thing to do, do it. You will have the arguments and the will to fight for it, otherwise don’t. You will hate the feeling in your body if complaints get thrown at you afterwards, and you know you should have followed your gut feeling.
HAVE SIDE PROJECTS
Where you can experiment freely and on your own terms. Play till you find your voice. With side projects there are no rules, you can’t disappoint someone else, and you will set your own deadline, or no deadline at all. The most important thing here, is to experiment and have fun.
GO FOR IT!
And trust your competence. You are hired or contracted by a company because they believe in your competence, experience and the ability to do a great job. Go at it full speed!
If you have an idea that you really care for and you have the arguments for, present it, there is a 50/50 chance it might happen. If not, at least you know you tried and you don’t have to wonder what might have happened.
If you know from the beginning that you don’t like what you need to do, say NO. Let someone else do it. If you really, really have to do it, then implement some of the above tips.
SNEAK “YOU” IN THERE
If you have to design a product/category that you don’t “love”, of course you will do your best for the product and the end consumer, but add a YOU-detail to it, where you at least can say: “That I like about this product”.
THROW AWAY YOUR FEAR
If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do? What would your decisions look like? If everything was allowed, how far could you push yourself?