Browsing through my favorite websites for some design resources. I ended up visiting the good folks at GoMedia.us; they have some phenomenal resources for sale (and free.) Right in their “Share” section, they featured a book called “Thread is not Dead” by Jeff Finley. An excellent find.
Since I’m currently doing loads of apparel design for Vossen Wheels, this book was an instant order. There is a preview available as a free download. In it, there is a great list by Mr. Finley naming 11 characteristics of successful designers. I think these are great to share.
1. They are a genuine fan of design.
They outwardly express their love of other people’s work and follow their inspirations closely. They are “hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise,” to quote the great Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
2. Hungry for knowledge and self-improvement.
They actively seek out feedback and have an innate desire to get better. They see themselves as a constant work in progress and enjoy the process of learning.
3. Humble yet confident.
The designers I witness doing well know they’re good but could always be better. I like the phrase, “always a student, never a master.”
4. Willingness to share knowledge.
You get more results out of helping others than by hurting them. Successful designers are often writing about their experience, sharing tips, answering questions, and helping others.
5. Unrelenting work ethic.
Most designers become successful by busting their ass. They admit to working long days and nights to get where they are today. Not because they have to, but because they WANT to. They crave it and eat, sleep, and breathe their work.
6. Undeniable Talent.
Let’s not forget that most successful designers have a raw talent that has been honed since they were young. Talent isn’t everything in this business, but it does go a long way. If you’ve got talent, you can get away with not having some of these other traits, but only for so long. At Go Media, we’ve always said that a designer with 30% talent and 70% hustle will outperform the designer with 70% talent and 30% hustle.
7. They have some marketing chops.
Every designer in the t-shirt scene knows that you can’t be afraid of self-promotion. The successful ones are constantly putting themselves out there where they can get the most eyeballs. Whether that’s through advertising or simply interacting on communities like Emptees or Threadless. You can be an amazing artist but if you avoid the Internet or any sort of social engagement, you’re facing an uphill battle.
8. They get lucky.
Sure, some of the big name designers claim they got where they are out of luck and happenstance. It’s true, I know plenty of designers who can have all these traits but are still spinning their wheels. But the truth is you need a small amount of luck to get you those big opportunities.
Successful designers create their own luck. They attend events, they network, they help others who, in-turn, help them. They stay in touch with their fans and clients, and they give people reasons to talk about them. In other words, they hustle and good things happen to those that hustle.
9. They understand branding.
Good designers are memorable because they have a unique style or fresh take on what other people are doing. They don’t want to be like everyone else and understand how important it is to have a solid brand. They are consistent with their image and people know what to expect.
Every time you interact with a customer or fan, that’s branding at work – you’re giving someone an impression of you that sticks with them. From having a solid logo and visual identity to the way you treat others and deliver on projects, it all adds up. The best ones are consistent across the board.
10. They have a solid website.
Successful designers use their website to show off their portfolio and attract customers. A solid website is deceptively simple and most people over think it.
All you need to remember is to make it extremely easy to see your work, contact you, and learn about you. Link to your social media profiles, why not. But don’t clutter up your site and try to make it “fancy” if that’s not your expertise.
11. They are great communicators.
They are professional and polite communicators and they put other people first. They are honest, direct, straightforward, and know when to say the right things. They respond to emails timely and make their clients feel good and pumped up about themselves.