Essential Skills for Succeeding In the Design Industry

You can always expect that there will be barricades to break down getting into any profession, and your skills are your ammunition to do so. To succeed as a full-time graphic design professional there are a few required skills. Some that you may already have to some degree, and others that you might have not even considered improving upon but would greatly benefit from.


This is the most obvious but also most important skill . Creative thinking is the seed to any extraordinary project ever built. Creativity also helps you develop your own style, no matter what it is you decide to do.


  • Draw or sketch randomness every day (or every week for starters)
  • Visit art galleries or museums every now and then to see all kinds of art forms from different time periods
  • Engage in social activity regularly, with new people
  • Watch tv, listen to music, browse the internet–you never know where inspiration will strike

Whether it’s coming up with a new business idea or a solution to a design problem within a project, creativity is your best asset.

Spotting Trends & Opportunities

In order to adapt to changes in the industry, it’s important to constantly keep an eye out for the latest trends and in demand services or products out there. Depending on the particular niche, service or product you intend to specialize in, there are resources online through which you can follow the latest trends.

Paying attention to what’s popular can help you determine which strategic moves you can make to get further. Now it’s not about jumping on every bandwagon that comes by, but recognizing which things you’re in a position to capitalize on based on your capabilities or resources.


  • Blogs and online magazines
  • General and specialized internet forums
  • Television

Always keep an eye out for opportunities and you’ll never run out of things to capitalize on.

Technical Design Skill

The best artists in the world are hardly ever the highest paid, but being the best artist you can possibly be is a surefire way to increase your income. The better I got at design, the more I was able to charge for my work and not have my prospective clients think “Who does he think he is charging this much?”

…being the best artist you can possibly be is a surefire way to increase your income.

Know what’s considered good design and get as close as you can to that ideal. A good strategy is to pick a designer you like and compare your art to theirs, looking for where you might be lacking. Mimic their style if you have to, just to get into the swing of tighter technical skill.


  • Stay sharp– practice designing every day
  • Study your top 5 designers and take note on things you can brush up on
  • Master your software– educate yourself on the ins and outs of Photoshop, Illustrator, and any other software you particularly use

No matter what skill level you’re currently at, there’s always room for improvement. It’s easy to get comfortable at the skill level you’re at, but it’s important to consciously build on it continually.

Dedication & Discipline

No goal is complete without these two must-have skills. Chances are you want to make big changes to your life and career, and they all start with 100% dedication and discipline. An old art school tv commercial asked the question “How bad do you want to be good?” and that sums up the attitude you should have towards success.

In running your own design business, even though you have no boss over your shoulder establishing strict rules, you have the opportunity to make your goals act as your boss. Keeping in mind what you’re aiming to achieve can help you maintain the required levels of dedication and discipline to succeed.


  • Set goals and keep your eye on the prize
  • Dedicate a bare minimum of 1-3 hours every day to your design work
  • Skip out on some leisure activities or partying every now and then

Whether you’re self employed or working at a big-name company, at the end of the day your skills are the determining factor of your success. Learn to fine tune these essential skills to get a step ahead in your design career.

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