Today will mark the milestone of six months since starting my role as Brand Designer at Shape and what a six months it has been! From joining during the coronavirus pandemic, working from home, the time has flown by. The magnitude of knowledge that comes with being in an industry environment is phenomenal and I’ve been lucky enough to learn a lot in my first six months at Shape.
I thought starting working remotely may have had its negatives, from not being able to mingle with my new teammates properly and settling in. This was not the case. The demand for Shapes digital services has been particularly high this year which meant I had to get up to speed pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Fast forward 6 months and it brings me here as a much more well-matured designer and has significantly extended my knowledge. Learning is all part of progressing and here are just some things I’ve picked up along the way, as well as some of the projects I’ve been working on!
I was always told since I was young to never turn down anything and throw yourself in the deep end when it comes to new things. Sometimes that can work, for some people they panic and refuse to. Granted, when I look back at my first draft of a site design here at Shape, something that I wasn’t particularly confident in, I can only look back and laugh. I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t felt out of my depth at some points since I’ve started working at Shape. It’s true that you learn from just getting stuck in and having a go.
Seeing my progression from just trying new things can go such a long way. Although it's a very overused phrase, learn from your mistakes. No one is going to learn and progress from coasting through. Mistakes are there to be made and how you deal with them is what defines if you’ll learn from them. Take advantage of those slip-ups, learn more, and come back better. If you’re not getting challenged then you’re not learning anything new.
Somewhat connected to the last lesson, I had to quickly grasp what was being done, whether this was a project that I was thrown in the middle of or something I wasn’t familiar with, you quickly become equipped to learn and uncover things fast so they don’t crop up further down the line. I managed to learn quickly by going to meetings, even if they were only on zoom, and listening, immersing myself in a brief, and just working on it and getting stuck in!
In addition to this, since being in the design industry, I have been trying to understand the struggles developers are facing when it comes to a particular design. Coming from a ‘I have no idea about code’ background, working on projects and handing them over to our web developers gives you context to what you’re doing thus allowing you to put even more pieces of the puzzle together. Having two heads is better than one and when they are from different backgrounds it makes it all the better!
Any designer will (hopefully) understand the strain on your eyes, your back, your whole body in fact, that looking at a screen all day can do to you. There are more than 10 million visits to Opticians every year for Computer Vision Syndrome (CSV) related problems. I’ve fallen into the trap of eating my lunch, what I like to call, El Desko (as apposed to El Fresco) on so many occasions but I’ve now learned that removing yourself from the room you work in, the chair you sit in, the desk you sit at, even just for a small period of time can have a huge impact on your body. At the end of the day, we're not robots and sometimes our bodies need a little breather.
Not only physically but taking a break from your screen or a project can completely change your outlook on that project and give your brain a reset, almost like a fresh set of eyes. This can be really beneficial if you're stuck on a certain project and find yourself having a creative block. If you spend a significantly long time on a project that you've been staring at for ages, you can sometimes fall into the 'is that word even spelled correctly anymore?!' — I hope at least one person reading this can relate. So, stepping back for a second can help you spot mistakes or inconsistencies that you hadn’t seen before!
As well as bonding with your teammates, having opportunities to collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other is really important and can create some great things! Sometimes I found myself getting caught up in a final product work and I wait to present my work until I consider it a finished product or I’m happy with it. But in this way, I create more work for myself, as I often receive suggestions for how to tweak something in a completely different light whether this is from a usability perspective or content-wise. I’m definitely still learning this, but you can’t help but want to impress!
When you work for a small agency, you find your job requirements go beyond the work you do on screen. From creating new visual identities for fashion brands to designing a site for a marketing agency to creating content for Shape, I'm constantly doing different things! This was one of the reasons I chose to work for a small design agency so no two days are the same. I am always presented with new challenges that push me outside my comfort zone.
Here at Shape, we work with international brands to local businesses from different sectors, meaning our end users are all so different. Because of that, each project is different and there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t learned anything new.
When I was growing up, I was often told you need an individual; ‘style’ to make it. I found as I matured as a designer, that this can be great for some people, but being versatile and varied is something that’s so important as a designer, particularly in web design. The ability to adjust to clients' requests and needs is a must when you enter the industry.
Showing that variation in your portfolio just opens up so many doors, rather than being restricted to a particular style. More often than not, having no particular style or working within no particular industry can be of benefit to you, particularly when working at a Design Agency.
Receiving feedback from your designs can be quite daunting to some people, something that you’ve spent a long time which you’re told doesn’t work for them can be pretty soul-destroying and some people take it to heart. Since working at Shape, I’ve learned to love feedback, I love hearing opinions whether it's good or bad, it opens up so many doors through conversing with others and can spark new ideas and you can move designs into development faster. At Shape, we’ve found some great ideas spark from mistakes, things that weren’t supposed to happen and that’s the beauty of design.
Taking criticism of your work shouldn’t be a personal attack, and equally giving feedback and giving your honest opinion without fear of offending them should be normalised. For this to happen, positive feedback should always be given, it’s easy to focus on the negatives but learning how to have a healthy attitude towards my designs made me focus on areas that need improvement to help me progress instead of dwelling on mistakes I made.
Leading Energy Profile by MadeByShape
Here at Shape, there is no hand-holding. It is our own responsibility to organise our own diary in relation to our deadlines. People usually hate deadlines because it puts pressure on the work to be fulfilled to an exceptional standard when really, for me, I thrive off fast pace environments where I’m always busy. Having these tight deadlines makes it easier to manage time and there’s nothing better than ticking something off that list.
This is something that University courses don't teach you, yes you have deadlines but they are crazy long compared to industry standards. Something that you may have a month on at University, you could only have a few days on when its a real-life brief in Industry. This is something that I also learned whilst studying at Shillington. That's not to say things are rushed, it's about adapting and having better time management to perfectly allocate time effectively and know how much time should be spent on what so you don't go down a rabbit hole! Fast-paced and exciting, just how we like it!
Painters World by MadeByShape
This is something that was ingrained in my mind during my studies, but let me tell you, it is so true. As creatives, we tend to have a constant flow of ideas that get us excited and make us want to chuck any idea of a process out the window. However, this is a rookie error that can waste time and money. Implementing a successful process can be super beneficial which can reduce the need for rework and establish better communication between our team to create an effective solution to the problem at hand.
Not every project is plain sailing and sometimes certain projects require more thought than others. When I find myself stuck in a creative block or something just isn’t working, go back and reevaluate, start the process again. Whether this is extra research on certain elements or starting from square one, trust the process! Good design is very much a process that shouldn't be rushed.
MiChild by MadeByShape
It might be a lot of lessons, but that’s a good thing! As I progress in my design career, I am certain that I have much more to learn and I continue to each day. I'm extremely fortunate to work with an amazing and supportive team at Shape that creates amazing work. For any new designers that are in the same position that I was in 6 months ago, just know have an open mind, and get excited! Projects are only boring if you make them boring 😉