Designers are visual communicators. This is what we do best: take complex ideas and communicate them through visually stunning graphics. However, in order to be successful, it is not just about having design skills. As a graphic designer, you need to be well-rounded and have a variety of skills that will help you succeed in your career. In this article, we will discuss three non-design skills that every designer should learn and master.
Why Cover Non-Design Skills?
Today I want to talk to you guys about three essential skills as a graphic designer that you must have now. A lot of people have some of these skills, and some of these people out there I think the majority of our industry really struggles with these three skills. So, I wanted to write an article talking about the three essential non-design skills as a graphic designer that you need to have now. The funny thing about this article is it has nothing to do with actually being a graphic designer; just from the perspective of technical skills. This is more about the mindset and the soft non-design skills that you need to have as a creative if you want to elevate your career, regardless if you work for a company or work for yourself, whether you are a freelancer or an employee.
Three Non-Design Skills You Must Master
So these are three non-design skills that every creative needs to have. Every designer needs to have these skills, and it doesn’t matter what type of creative you are. These are three crucial non-design skills that everyone needs to master, and I’m going to give you some ways that you can apply them to your life and career.
So, the first skill that I want to talk to you guys about is communication. This is a really important area, and I made this number one for a reason. Communication is the key to relationships in your personal life and in your professional life. If you’re not a great communicator, good luck getting a raise, good luck getting a bonus or promotion, or getting a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. This is an area where I see many human beings struggling. So, I wanted to focus on this area first because it’s an important area that I’ve leveled up in a lot. That’s the reason why I continue to do YouTube videos – because it helps my communication skills.
Now, there are some practical things I’m going to share with you at the end of this segment, but it’s really important that you have good communication. You’re probably asking yourself, “Well, why? I’m just a graphic designer sitting in front of my computer all day. I don’t really need to talk to anybody.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I’m just an employee somewhere checking boxes.” It doesn’t matter what your role is and what you do as a designer – it matters about the way you communicate with other people. People on your team, your bosses, your clients – communication is key for you elevating and reaching the next level in your career and making more money, having more success, and having better relationships. That’s what we all want, right? We want better relationships.
Talking to Clients
The first thing in communication is being able to talk with your clients, being able to gather information. This is a really important area. If you don’t know how to ask the right questions, if you don’t know how to build relationship currency, or if you don’t know how to overcome challenging conversations, this is where a lot of people get run over. They have a tough conversation with a client who is just trying to take advantage of them or nickel and dime them, and they have no idea how to respond back to that client. This is a problem you’re going to end up feeling burnt out about. This is an opportunity where, when you see yellow flags or red flags of the client, you call it out. However, you call it out in a way that says, “This is where I set my boundaries,” or “This is something that is very important to me; I don’t allow this.”
Being able to communicate through challenging conversations with clients is really key, so here are a couple of things you can do to educate yourself: read books or watch videos. There’s a ton of content on YouTube. There’s also a lot of great content on my channel, but I also want to recommend a book that can help improve your communication skills with clients. The best book is called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. This is an amazing book. Chris Voss actually has a master class. If you’ve never heard of that, it’s a website where you can watch these training videos by all these experts all around the world in different fields. And Chris Voss has training in negotiation. He’s a former FBI negotiator – the guy’s incredible.
He talks about mirroring, accusation audits, and all these different techniques and strategies that he has that can really help you level up your conversations and communication. I would highly recommend that you check out that book. It’ll give you some really practical tips on how to actually build relationship currency with people, how to build friendships, how to ask better questions. Actually, there are a few books on that that I can think of but I’m going to save that for another day. Enthusiastically investing in communication skills and becoming an excellent communicator is going to be a really great way for you to elevate your game as a graphic designer, web designer, or motion designer.
This leads me to number two, which is something that’s really important for me. I want to share a quick story with you. I was once a good designer, and many of you watching this are probably good designers too – whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re an industry veteran. But one of the areas where many designers struggle is they come up with ideas and throw them at the wall on behalf of their clients, praying that they stick. That’s not a very effective marketing strategy. You need to understand the foundational principles of marketing strategy and that’s a lot of what I talk about on this blog.
Strategic Marketing Is Key
Specifically, you need to understand marketing strategy and the science of marketing, so if this is an area that you don’t have any expertise in – and you’re a designer – this is where you’re giving your clients the short end of the stick. I want you guys to focus on actually being able to develop marketing strategies on a team, whether you’re an employee or you’re a business owner, or a freelancer. You need to be able to educate your client on how marketing actually works. Many of your clients are going to think they know a lot, but they don’t have any real foundation. They just have a good idea, and that doesn’t have a foundation. You need to come from a place where you have a foundation, so you can say “Hey this is how marketing works logically, ethically, emotionally.”
This is an area if you’re even an employee and you’re working on a team where you can add a lot of value to your team and your boss or supervisor can be like “Wow, I never thought of that!” And by doing that, you’re going to build a lot of relationship currency on your team. You’re going to be adding value, and you’re going to be doing something different than most designers. Most designers don’t have any experience in marketing – they just have some good ideas, and they think that their good ideas are the holy grail and end-all-be-all.
You need something foundational so I want you to get some education on marketing. There are a lot of resources like our blog, or Neil Patel’s resources. If you’re really looking for a marketing strategy, a good book, and I’ve talked about this many times, is The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. That was a game-changer for me. If you think about marketing as an education-based system or process, you can really have a lot of wins. The person that educates the market, similar to what I’m doing here, is the person that’s going to win and it’s going to stand out from the crowd. Most people don’t take the time to educate their clients. They just tell them what they want and the client and the business owner or the designer just go off and do it. They don’t educate their client in any way, which means you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to build more value, make more money, and have a long-term relationship with the client.
The third of the non-design skills is time management and this is a big one I can’t stress this enough is probably the area that I still struggle in a little bit just because of my personality type. You need to understand time management if you are not living and dying by your calendar. You’re making that’s your first big mistake. There’s a lot of resources out there for you on time management which I’ll get into in here in just a minute so stick with me.
But time management is important, whether you’re on a team or not. If it takes you five hours to do the design that someone else could do in an hour because you’re spending four hours researching, that’s very poor time management. You need to set budgets for yourself in all the different phases and aspects of the design process, from the initial discovery meeting, to whether you’re gathering information from your team, clients, or bosses. You need to actually limit the amount of time and be able to have a process in place, without processes things are just going to wander left and right. Next thing you know, a 30-minute meeting ends up being three hours. You really need to take control of your calendar, take control of your time, and show your clients and your team that you have process and time management deadlines for every phase of the project.
Planning Is Crucial
Once you go from your initial discovery, then you’re going to go into your planning phase. Your planning phase needs to have deadlines and budgets for that, so you limit yourself. And when you put limits on yourself, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish. I’ve done things where I had 50 hours worth of work, and I told myself I needed to get it done in 30. And guess what? I got it done in 30 when it was actually 50 hours’ worth of work. So if you plan things and set deadlines for yourself, you’d be surprised what you can achieve.
Time Management Resources
I just have this ability because of the time management skills I’ve learned from the resources I’m going to share with you here in a minute that has allowed me to delegate things out and allow me to do more in a day than I would have ever been able to do and really prioritize my schedule and that’s a big part of time management is prioritizing what you’re going to do in your day and just being realistic but something that I want you to do right now is you need to get a book on time management and a really good book for that is Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs. This is a really good book you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to read it, but it’s going to help you realize that there are time vampires out there that are just going to try to suck ideas from you and come into your office all the time or call you all the time or text you all the time. You need to set boundaries, set expectations, and set deadlines.
You Need Complementary Non-Design Skills to Succeed
These are all aspects that will help you achieve success and go from being a good designer to a great designer because even if you’re an excellent designer who doesn’t know how to communicate or manage their time well, you won’t have much luck in your career. Clients will leave, and they’ll go to other providers who are even less skilled but more capable of making them happy because they’re good at marketing, communication, and time management.
Final Thoughts on Non-Design Skills
So these are the three non-design skills I want you to think about seriously. I want you to invest in yourself. I want you to take more time to watch other videos on our channel, and I hope this is just a huge value for you. I’m happy to help you that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to be a resource for you, so thank you guys so much for watching. I’m Adrian Boysel. I’ll see you guys on the next article, and as always, keep looking up!