The design field is growing, specifically web design, logo design, and the graphic design fields. With growth comes competition and, in order to survive, you need to stand out from all the rest. I wanted to give some advice to designers coming into the field, as well as create a refresher for current designers. No matter what you specialize in the design field (if anything), there are some tips that you need to keep in mind. But before we jump into them, there’s one key element that is the most important above all else: be unique. To be unique means to stand out because of that one (or more) quality that makes you stand out among the rest. That is the one piece that nobody can tell you, so you’ll just have to find that out on your own. But here are some quick tips on making your designs stand out:

Keep your personality

Infographics, logos, and websites alike all share one common element: your personality. No matter what you design, your personality will show through. If it doesn’t, then you need to let it! Setting yourself apart is not difficult; it’s the positive appearance that’s difficult. Most designers have an upbeat personality with a great sense of humor. If this sounds something like you, then take a look at your most recent work and ask yourself: “Can I see myself in this?” A lot of times people withhold their sense of humor from their designs, but the truth of the matter is that humor sells. Give your client a quick laugh and you likely just kept their interest. The same will go for visitors to a website. However, don’t go overboard with it. If it fits, keep it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

Staying professional, positive, and punctual

This one is more geared towards new designers, but it’s nice to have a refresher, right? The last 2 P’s here are really just subsections of “professional.” There will come a time when a client hires you and it will be difficult to keep calm and professional. Staying professional is the hardest of these 3 P’s, but you can’t be called a professional if you aren’t professional. If you do not stay positive, you will find your designs suffer as well. As we stated in the section above, your personality should and likely will shine through. Part of your personality is your mood at the time of designing. Lastly, no matter what, you must be punctual. Never procrastinate. Actually, it’s best to keep working at a project until it’s complete. One part of being punctual is being available for your clients, so you should answer emails and return phone calls as soon as possible. Remember, everything you make is a part of your portfolio and will stay with you throughout your career!

Be social

This one plays into a few different meanings of the word “social.” Of course, you should be social with your client and open to answering any and all questions (remember to be professional); however, it’s also important to engage a conversation about potential changes that they may not have thought of. Way too often designers work with a client to make exactly what they want and keep their own opinions to themselves. If you have an idea you think can make the website, logo, or infographic better, then let them know. They hired you to be creative, so be creative! So that’s the first aspect of being social.
The second aspect of being social moves more towards running your business: interaction. Comments on blogs, your Facebook wall, Tweets to you or about you, and pretty much everything in the social media world requires your input. Respond to these comments and interact with people as much as possible because they may open your eyes to something you never even thought of. (Side note: ALL designers should have Instagram.)

Design elements

There are a few elements to design that some designers flat out ignore. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and combinations, even if they seem flat out strange. Here’s a list of the elements that designers should put some serious effort into making unique in some way:

    • Whitespace/Negative Space (web design mostly, but infographic designers should be aware of this)
    • Organization (everything from your designs to your desk)
    • Typography (web design, logo design, and infographics)
    • Variety (colors, images, style, pretty much everything in the design field needs variety)
    • Simplicity
    • Consistency
    • Trial and Error (yes, your design will probably not be “the one” on the first go around)

    Try something new

    If it isn’t new, it isn’t unique. When you experiment and try new things, you will find some interesting ideas emerge. You’d be surprised what you can come up with just by flipping your design upside-down, reversing colors, changing shapes, and other miscellaneous (and usually weird) changes. (Another side note: Flipping a website and making it live does not make it unique…it makes it upside-down; however, it can spark some ideas which is what you want!)

    Conclusion

    As a designer, your portfolio is essentially your whole career. The designs themselves are what makes the portfolio awesome. So as long as you keep designing unique, interesting, and inspirational things, your portfolio will form itself. Once you think you have that down pat, there are a few questions that you should ask yourself when you come up with a new design:

    • “Can I see myself in this?”
    • “What was the point of this design and can I see it in there?”
    • “Is the information easy to find and grasp?”
    • “Does it bring something new?”

    I recommend that all designers find some other designs in your industry and find some inspiration in them. Sometimes just seeing other designs and their own unique ideas can spark your own unique ideas. Take that idea and write it down, or better yet: design it!

    Naturally, I’m interested to see what you all think in how a designer stands out in the crowd. Is it more the design, the business, or the designer? What questions do you ask yourself when you finish your first design? Let me know in the comments!

    Author Bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate of Ignition72, a Maryland web design agency. He loves finding new designs that are inspiring, creative, and unique.

    header image courtesy of Gustavo Mancini