I remember my final weeks of school before I was finally set free to work in the “real world”

After 5 years of studying industrial design, I started to think maybe what I studied wasn’t exactly for me.

I liked design, but I didn’t think it truly fit what I wanted to do.

Instead, I designed my portfolio website around what I wanted to pursue instead at the time in 2020. 

Fashion illustration.

With my portfolio, I landed freelance work with dream clients and awesome fashion events around the city. 

It was a dream come true. 

I’ve since changed the focus of my career, but the message still remains true: 

If you want to land your dream clients and work on awesome projects, you need a portfolio website that shows what you’re capable of. 

The Habit Factory is launching a 21-day portfolio-building workshop this May. Created for artists and designers who are ready to take the next step in their careers. 

Level up with us and join today! 

What I learned from design school vs. what I learned in marketing

Design school says: make beautiful, functional designs that serves a purpose

Marketing says: help someone out and serve a purpose 

Here I am holding a menu I drew for the mid autumn festival that just passed last week. 

Designers would say that the type and kerning is all funky. The information hierarchy of the pricing and sets could be better. The design looks like it was done in a single attempt.

For the most part, they’re right. 

On the other hand, marketers would ask: who is this for and do they want it? 

I finally got the answer to that question last week, as sales of our set menus exceeded expectations.

And so: design is important. Design matters. It makes the world a much more beautiful place. 

However, design plays a small part in a much bigger role of commerce. 

Don’t hold back your design work just because you think it’s ugly. 

The Law of Diminishing Returns on a Design Project

When do you know when you’re done?

The law of diminishing returns states that there is a certain point in productivity where if you pass the threshold, the smaller your returns will be. 

In other words, you can’t keep putting in work in your day thinking that all your work will be productive. 

The same rule applies to your design work.  There’s a point of diminishing returns where, if passed, any further tweaks or minor edits will only make a tiny impact (while still taking hours of your time away).

When your project reaches a point of diminishing returns, it’s time to move on. 

The Truth About Good Design Pt. 2

2 days ago I wrote about the truth of good design.

Today I share a personal story that illustrates my point in that post which is: good design is always subjective. In order to achieve successful design, we must define “good” and put boundaries on what that word means to us as designers. 

Last week I clocked into work and right as I was getting ready, one of our customers came up to the counter to order his daily cup of milk tea. 

As he was waiting, he noticed there was a special menu we made for the Lunar New Year sitting on our trays. After looking at it for a few minutes, he made several points about it. 

Some of them were: 

“The format was all wrong” 

“It’s hard to understand”

“There should be a format where the customer could choose what they want rather than have fixed sets” 

He said his suggestions would make it better because he studied design in school. 

I told him that I did as well. 

Having nothing more to say than to compare the schools we both went to and why his was better, he eventually left. 

The truth of the matter was, it didn’t matter whether or not the menu was under universal principles of good design. 

What mattered more was why it was considered “good” to a certain audience. For us, it was our Instagram audience. During the span of Lunar New Year (roughly 2 weeks), we sold over 90 sets using that menu. Very roughly speaking, that’s 8k in revenue (which is a lot for a small business like ours). 

For my design friends, don’t fool yourself into thinking that design to impress others is the way to go. 

Don’t make good design. Instead, be specific about who your design is going to serve. Design for them. 

The Truth About Good Design

Good design is never good. Instead, it’s always “good”. 

What’s the difference?

When it comes to design work, there will always be critics. Designers critiquing their own work. Designers critiquing another designer’s work. Other people critiquing a designer’s work, and so on. 

Here’s what I mean when I say there are 2 different kinds of good design.

There’s a version of good where the project passes all our personal checkboxes. This is the first and most personal critique, because it’s done by yourself, alone. A survey of 1. Whether you think it’s good or not almost always doesn’t matter (yes, you read that right).

Good design is highly subjective, non-conforming, and untameable. If we really want results, we need to define what good means. This is where “good” comes in.

“Good” is targeted. “Good” depends on who you’re talking to—your audience, your market. “Good” is defined. What does your project/product/service need in order for your market to say it’s “good”? 

You only need to be “good” for a specific group of people. Oftentimes, the designer herself is not a part of that group of people. 

So before you critique your work to it’s death, ask what are you designing, and who does it need to be “good” for? 

Your Logo is Just a JPEG. Stop Worrying About How Your Business Aesthetics look

I’m going against all of what I thought was important in design school to say the following:

It doesn’t matter how clever you make your logo. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of “unique style” you take on with your business name. 

The colour you choose doesn’t matter.

The font you choose doesn’t matter either. 

When you’re a business starting out, your logo is just a JPEG. One out of millions in the marketplace around you. 

But while others might be focused on their own looks, you should be focused on serving somebody else first. 

How to Market Yourself as A Designer

If you are anything like me, the thought of somebody accidentally stumbling across your work and wanting to work with you based off of your infrequent artsy posts ran through your mind (at least once). You are waiting to get found. Unfortunately this is far from how reality works. 

So back to the question, how do you market yourself as a designer? For starters, the world needs to know you have great design work to share. So first things first, what kind of designer are you? This instantly helps people understand what you do. 

Next, where can they find you? Are you easy to find and contact, or do you hide all your information in secret sections of your website tucked away on the 3rd page of Google? 

Lastly, how are you helping them find you? It’s a saturated market out there. Through which platforms will you be letting people know about your work? More importantly, are you on the same platforms as your customers? 

If you want to get out of the “waiting to get found” mindset, you need to start marketing yourself as a designer.