Tips for designers: Find, keep and love your job

By Brittani Wray

Cary-Anne Olsen, Matt Slabaugh and Kathryn Legendre have one thing in common: They’re all professional Web designers with jobs that they love. And while that may sound as simple as a cleanly designed splash page, getting to that point took a lot of effort, experience and learning.

Here are a few of the pro tips presented to students during the session “Journalism, Mass Communcation and Design: How They Work Together”:
1. You have to work at good design
“Getting from that creative idea to the actual product is a process,” Slabaugh said. “You don’t just have an idea that’s perfect the first time.”
2. You have to continue learning
“Definitely the skills I have now are different than what I learned in class,” Olsen said. “Keep seeking out inspirations and watch for what other people are doing.”
3. Functionality over form
“It’s very rarely that you design just for the sake of making something look nice,” Slabaugh said. “You can make the prettiest website, but if it’s broken, no one is going to see it. And like Craigslist, ugly as all sin, but everyone uses it.”
4. Know your own ability
“It’s hard to put a price on your own stuff,” Legendre said. “But confidence is key. Say yes — within reason … People want to know that you’re willing, and people want to know that you’re still willing to learn.”
5. Never work for free
“Even if it’s just a six-pack of beer, get paid somehow,” Legendre said. “Your work is valuable.”

6. Maintain contacts
“There’s a big difference between networking and using your network,” Slabaugh said.

7. Don’t sell yourself short
“You have value as a designer,” Olsen said. “Even though it’s easy for us, it’s not easy for everyone, and that’s why it’s worth something.”

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