5 Skills That Boost Your Design Career

This is a guest post from Chris Garrett. Chris is an internet marketing consultant from the UK. You can read more at his blog, chrisg.comSubscribe and receive a free ebook.

While I have never been a web designer, over the years I have commissioned a good deal of web design and worked very closely with hundreds of designers. In most cases the designers had excellent artistic abilities and many had years of experience. What I found separated the “must re-hire” from the rest though were the following attributes. As well as making you a more valuable member of a team, they will also make you much more sought after and could allow you to raise your prices.

If you read this list and find yourself unimpressed, congratulations, these skills are remarkably hard to find! On with the list, and remember, this is my list, feel free to disagree in the comments …

1. Communication

To win the work in the first place will require good communication skills. Once you have the project signed it really helps when you can easily communicate with team members. A lot of design requires good communication, from extracting accurate requirements, discussing changes and options, explaining why something just.plain.won’t.work! A designer today will likely have to write clear emails, hold skype conversations crossing numerous timezones and cultures, and countless other communication tasks.

2. Usability

Critical in the success of a web project is ease of use. It’s no good turning out cutting edge, beautiful design only to find it confuses the hell out of people. It might seem common sense to you, but there is a lot of it about! Knowing how to make a design useful as well as good looking is a crucial skill. Related to usability but not the same thing, information architecture knowledge is a very salable skill. Combine IA expertise with usability and excellent communication skills and you can command far higher fees. Why? It takes you from being a commodity to being a sought after
consultant.

3. Technical Skills

You can argue the jobs of design and markup are separate if you like, in my experience though there is a premium when both skill-sets are found in a single package. While you might not always be expected to do your own CSS and XHTML magickery, having a deep understanding of the technical aspects helps both with team communication and when things go wrong.

4. Project Management

A lot of designers consider being organized sufficient, but on larger projects it really helps to have a grasp of project management fundamentals. A designer that can actually project manage the design part of a project has an edge over another designer who needs to be told what to do and when to do it and sits there waiting for input.

5. Marketing

If you learn about marketing you will get more work or a start, but knowing some of the art and science of marketing will help your designs work for what they are intended. Consider that many of a web designers deliverables will ultimately exist to get attention, build brand, sell stuff, it stands to reason a designer who produces work that achieve those goals consistently will be invited back!

What do you think of my list? Agree, disagree? Let me know in the
comments …

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