30 May 2016

10 tips from 10 years in design

If the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ is anything to go by, then the speed at which the last decade has passed means that it’s been a pretty good journey thus far for me in the industry. Having worked at Bellman for the last three years, I thought I’d look back and share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Be proactive.

Having personal projects—even if they’re hypothetical briefs you’ve set yourself—is a great way to bulk your folio up with the kind of work that you want to be doing, especially if you’re starting out and haven’t found your way into your dream job yet. Let your folio show what you’re capable of.


Working at Bellman has given me a real appreciation for being part of a great team. Being surrounded by talented and passionate people who you can bounce ideas off is priceless. You’ll get a lot further working and learning as part of a team than you will on your own.

No shortcuts.

Think of design like learning a language – you start at the beginning and you get better the more you practice and work at it. No one’s ever awesome straight away—there’s no shortcut for hard work.

Find your niche.

One of the great things in this industry is that there are endless ways that you can specialise your career. It could be with a studio that specialises in branding or packaging, if that’s your thing, or working as a designer within another industry that you’re really interested in. You’ll create better work if you enjoy what you’re doing.

Use your hands.

Two of the best design tools you own have been right in front of you all along. There’s something liberating about putting initial ideas down on paper; it unlocks the creative energy in a way that working on screen just doesn’t quite achieve. Being able to create your own images and type is also a skill which will exponentially broaden your capabilities rather than relying on fonts and stock libraries.

A matter of taste.

Sometimes you just have to design things that aren’t quite to your taste, and that’s just the way it is when you’re working in a commercial setting. But at the end of the day, if that design helps your client to reach their audience and do better business, then you should still consider it as a job well done.

Find your own way to be inspired.

Keeping up with trends is important, but it’s also easy to become overloaded with ‘inspo’ in the digital age that we live in. For me, reading pieces about people doing interesting things—designers or otherwise—and how they came to be doing what they do, is just as beneficial.


One of best things I’ve done, not only as a designer, but on a personal level, was to go out and see the world. You see new things, meet interesting people and observe other ways of life, which fills your head with a well of ideas and stories that you can dip into for years to come.

Take a break.

It isn’t easy always coming up with fresh ideas and producing quality work all the time. Make sure you give yourself downtime to do whatever it is that helps you recharge, whether it’s another hobby or spending time with friends or family.

Give yourself credit.

This tip isn’t anything new, but I think it’s a good one to be reminded of from time to time. While it’s great to be hungry for the next challenge, it’s easy to become hard on yourself if you’re only looking forward. Sometimes you don’t realise how far you’ve come until you take a look back. Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made.

For branding by Bellman

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