9 “Must Haves” for a Graphic Designer

By September 14, 2015Creative

In the world of Graphic Design we face constant challenges.  The biggest challenge we face is coming up with original creations and ideas over and over again on a daily basis.  Designers in creative agencies don’t just magically make amazing logos, websites, or ads appear on the computer, they research and get inspired from some bizarre idea, individual or some other tangible element.  I recently came across a blog that showed 15 things Graphic Designers must do to be successful.  After reading through the blog and thinking about how I personally go through solving a design problem, I realized how relatable the blog was.  This lead me to write my own post about what I believe is a “Must Have” for Graphic Designers.


First off, Graphic Designers must have a (functioning) computer. Most importantly, a computer that doesn’t freeze when you open Adobe Photoshop to make a design or Adobe InDesign when you’re editing a 30 page document.

The argument of Apple vs PC has always been a topic of choice in the Design world. In my experiences and education, the room always glowed with bright white apple logos.  Maybe it’s a social thing that drives designers to buy Apple computers because there is always the token PC user in a group of designers.  I believe what the Apple vs. PC debate comes down to is personal preference. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what computer you use as long as it is functioning efficiently.


The majority of the population these days carries a smartphone in their pocket.  For Graphic Designers the smartphone has evolved into an amazing tool.  Whether you’re snapping pictures for inspiration on a project or utilizing one of the many tools that  smartphones have to offer, it is a “Must Have.”  My most valuable tool on my iPhone is an application called Adobe Shape.  This app can take any drawing or photo and quickly vectorize the image into a working file for Adobe software.  I wish I had this in college — spending hours placing anchor points along a line takes WAY too much time.  Be efficient and original people.


Finding inspiration and having a good education refines Graphic Designers and weeds out the ones who aren’t looking to spend the time needed.  While in school, the Graphic Designer students were the ones who spent 10 hours in class and 5 hours at home each day.  While I was in school I developed relationships with the professors that truly believed in my work.  These professors helped me understand efficiency in my designs and how to always have a proper process. In addition, they introduced me to books, related to my design styles that inspired me and gave me new ideas.  These are still techniques that I utilize within my work today at Hawke Media. Find the education and the books that inspire you and teach you new techniques and styles.


As a Graphic Designer, if you do not have stacks and rolls of paper laying around, you’re doing it wrong.  Always be sketching and trying things that may be out of the box.  You also want to be prepared to jot down any ideas you have in the moment. The fact is, you will rarely solve your design problem with a single drawing.  I find myself going through 10-20 sheets of paper just to create a single element of a design. Even if you’re a Graphic Designer who works almost entirely on a computer,  learn to love paper and pencil.


Whether it is your friends, family, supervisor or co-workers, always have peers overlook your work.  Having multiple eyes critique your designs allows you to stay fresh and view things from new angles. I have often found that the best eyes are the ones who haven’t been trained for Graphic Design. Personally, I enjoy sharing my ideas with those outside of my department at my company’s daily stand-ups.


Put your headphones on and get into the beat.  I personally love having music pound through my head while I work. Musicians are similar to Digital Artists, we have a deeper meaning to our work that meets the eye.   Music creates a flow in your brain while you work.   Whether you’re using a mouse, pencil or a brush, there is always a workflow pulsing through you.  Tap your foot, find your rhythm and make something different.


Your portfolio should be an extension of who you are and what your style is all about.  Designers are so incredibly competitive and your portfolios should be that element that sets you apart from the other thousand graphic designers in your city. Be original and creative; show your work in a unique and wild fashion.  I believe that too many designers go in the same direction as the person sitting next to them. My advice is to swim against the current and differentiate your offerings versus your colleagues.


Drink your coffee. It’s a must.


Set goals for yourself, but don’t speak them aloud or write them down. A wise mentor once told me, when you speak your goals out loud, the brain tells your body that the goal is somewhat achieved by releasing endorphins, fooling your brain into thinking that the goal has already been accomplished.

Just think to yourself what you want to be and how you want to get there and then go for it.  Don’t tell people how you are working to achieve these goals, wait until you start to see real results first. As Nike says, “just do it”.  They don’t tell the world what they’re planning on releasing ten years down the road, it just shows up one day and people notice.

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