Growing as a designer — by Jordan Baker

Last year I was headhunted by White October to join the design team after graduating from university. One year on I can proudly say that I have learned a lot during my time here. This is my list of the most valuable lessons for anyone starting their career in the design industry.

Time Management

University projects are very unrealistic when compared to client projects at an agency, at university you’re set 1 project to complete over a 3–4 month period — in an agency you could have as little as a week or two depending on the size of the project.

At White October, I’ve experienced working on various small and large projects, it’s amazing what you can achieve as a small team in a short amount of time. So managing your time effectively and keeping to a tight schedule is very important — especially as you have the project budget to consider.

Confidence

Being able to talk about your work in-front of your project team and especially to clients is vital. Without being able to communicate your ideas or express why you have designed something in a certain way — you’re going to struggle.

This skill wasn’t encouraged a lot at university, so coming into White October and presenting your work and ideas to clients felt like a big responsibility — especially not to screw it up.

Constructive criticism

Thinking your work is the best and there are no faults about it, well you’re wrong almost 99% of the time. At White October we have a review session called Fresh eyes, originating from the design team at Shopify, where designers bring a piece of work they have been working on to have a fresh pair of eyes with the other designers. You explain your idea and process around the design, then the rest of the design team can question you and give input on how you can improve it.

Being able to take constructive criticism is crucial, as much as you think your design is good and there are no faults, someone will always be able to give a better suggestion on how it can be improved.

Post-it notes are your best friend

These squared 3 x 3 multi-coloured notes cover pretty much every wall at White October, I didn’t really understand how useful and valuable they were until working in an agency — they are a lifesaver. You need to be autonomous in a fast-paced agency, these fabulous notes helped remind me of my to-do priorities for each day.

Questions, ask questions

Always ask questions, especially those questions that you might think are silly. Making sure you understand the task or project you’re going to be working on is essential.

Clients think they know what they really want from the project, but many times they don’t, as a designer the role is to help define and identify what they really want from the project. Asking the right questions at the start of a project will help you start to solve the problem more efficiently.

User experience is not easy

I didn’t really know what UX was before I left university, I just thought it was about the layout and the journey that a user takes. User experience isn’t as easy as putting ‘UX’ in your Twitter bio, people spend years researching and studying about it.

User experience is more than just wireframes or a journey, it’s information architecture, user surveys, user flows, storytelling, user profiles and personas — the list continues. UX isn’t just one part of a process it covers a broad set of functions, most importantly I learned that it’s challenging and difficult to be good at both user interface and user experience.

Last but not least, I want to say thank you to White October for giving me this opportunity, it’s been fun.

— Jordan Baker, Digital Designer

 

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