1. Understand the many fields that fall into “Design”
There are visual designers, interaction designers, user experience (ux) designers, user interface (ui) designers, product designers, graphic designers and the list goes on. Then there are generalists who do a little of everything! Companies like LinkedIn hire such designers for UX, UI and product design. Start by figuring out which specialty or specialties interest you.
2. Read UX/UI design articles during your commute
Start with “So you want to be a user experience designer,” by Whitney Hess. From there, check out “14 must reads for the ux newbie” then Medium’s collection of design posts https://medium.com/ux-ui-readings. In the beginning you’ll need to do a lot of reading and research before it starts to click.
3. Learn Sketch
Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator have long been a Designer’s go-to tools, but these day’s there’s a new kid on the block named Sketch. With an extremely intuitive interface, Sketch has done a great job combining all the good parts of Adobe. There are a number of resources that will help you learn these programs, but a few of my favorites are Design tuts, Lynda and Skillshare.
4. Take a break when you’ve hit a wall
At this stage you’ll be somewhere in-between confused, defeated and overwhelmed – so buy yourself a latte for goodness sake! Reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve put into your passion. Stay positive.
I fondly look back on the day I embarrassingly admit to a friend that I had absolutely no clue how to use the pen tool (this will be funny in a few months). My friend and I ended up getting jobs at the same company a year later and still laugh about the day we spent, quite literally, 8 hours drawing shapes in Photoshop.
5. Read the good stuff
Great books for designers to read in 2016
6. Find a designer who knows some stuff, and text them occasionally
I didn’t say “find a mentor.” I don’t believe in mentors because I think people are busy working towards their own dreams. I have never expected someone else to invest heavily in my career, but I have found some awesome Designer friends who I bug on the occasion with a simple text or a quick coffee when I need advice.
7. Spend time getting inspired
Listen to Matias Duarte, VP of Android Design at Google talk about Material Design.
Look at design work on Dribbble, The Best Designs and Awwwards. Make inspiration a priority. It will help you understand ux patterns, visual design, and it will energize you.
8. Work on fake projects
If your goal is an internship or entry-level position as a UI/UX Designer, you will need something to show. This is one of the hardest steps because it feels a little like jumping off a cliff. You won’t think you’re ready to start working on fake projects, but do it anyway. Try designing a portfolio in Sketch or Illustrator starting with user flows, wireframes, interactions, and finally a high-fidelity mock. After that, redesign a site in need of a redesign (Pinterest is perfect, don’t touch it!). Invent your own to-do list web app. Create a froyo delivery app. Continue to design things that excite you.
9. Subscribe to Sidebar
The 5 best design links, emailed daily: http://sidebar.io/
10. Write this quote down and keep it at your desk
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”