When I was a design student, I was a know it all. I still am. I think it’s just me being confident in myself. There are things you hear and you know they are true. But, there comes a moment when you actually understand what that means. It’s an interesting moment.

Recently I’ve had a couple of those. I thought about writing them down and sharing them with young designers. I’ve only been doing with for five years now so I’m not that old or that wise yet.

But I can certainly shed some words of wisdom for fellow designers who are just starting out. This is a list of five things I wish I understood when I was a junior designer. It would make my life easier, that’s all.

01. Always understand the problems. Ask as many questions as you possibly can.

I find that the longer I’ve been a designer, the more questions I ask. Who is the target audience? Why are you building this feature? Has anyone talked with your users yet? What is the user’s goal here? Who is the target audience, again?

I find that asking a lot of questions about the project or problem at hand helps me understand it better. That’s the obvious benefit. You are a junior designer, people are going to hand you the easier problem. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to ask questions. A problem may seem straightforward. Sometimes they even are. But, your job is to own the project you’re working on.

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The better you understand it, the better solutions you can provide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s okay. And it will make you look better, actually. There is no such thing as a dumb question. You’re going to have to get over that. People will appreciate you trying to get to the core of the problem. It will also make you appear more dedicated. Because that’s what you are doing.

Another reason why I ask so many questions is to make sure I understand how the project I am doing will affect the rest of the product. It’s one thing to understand what you’re creating at hand. It’s another to know how it will affect the whole user flow. You can’t know if you don’t own the problem. That’s why I mean by owning it; know the project and its capabilities.

02. Don’t ever use Lorem Ipsum. Having content, albeit not finished, is a must.

Sometimes you will get so eager to get started on a design. I know how exciting it can be to jump right in. Especially, when you are feeling inspired and excited. As long as you follow the proper design steps, you do you. First, make sure the proper user flow is laid out. Then, make sure all the features are set.

Next, get the content. It doesn’t matter if the content is not fully baked. You will never design something without proper content. You will never design with Lorem Ipsum.

Here is why – design is about the content. You are communicating information to a user or a visitor. you can’t design effectively if you don’t know that it is you’re supposed to be communicating. The copy doesn’t have to be final. But it needs to be reflective of the final content. This half-baked content will help you design, and that will help bake in the content. It’s a beautiful circle of life.

One thing that this helps avoid is you having to speak for the design. Think of it this way, if the copy is Lorem Ipsum, I cannot hand off the design to someone who is not part of the project. They have to be briefed. That’s a design fail in and of itself too. Repeat after me: I will never design without content. You’re welcome to make it up yourself if you have to. Share it with someone to get it approved and move on. But don’t use Lorem Ipsum.

03. Some things come with experience. It’s a matter of doing and time.

When we are eager and new we think we can do it all. I’ve been there. I felt that way. Let that energy and desire drive you. But let’s get one thing straight. There is no substitute for experience. I’m sure you can do many things but times make you wiser and efficient.

For instance, I know better than to use Lorem Ipsum. It’s natural for me to be asking for content right away. When I am first handed a project I am ready to ask questions about it. I am ready to break it apart and built it back up in the project brief to fully understand it.


When I left college, I felt confident in running a successful project brief. Today, having done some of them I know what to do and not. Based on experience. I’m not saying you have to do your due diligence. I’m saying that the sooner you realize that something come with time the easier it will be for you.

That doesn’t mean you should let go of your ambitions. Go for the complicated projects. Do things that are outside of your experience already. The only way you will be comfortable in doing them, or know how to do them better, is by doing more of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting paid for it from your internship or job. It doesn’t matter if it’s a side project by yourself or with your friends. Just do.

04. Have interests outside of design. At least one other thing.

Here is the thing about being a designer. Your job is to always think and to always be creative. That’s exhausting. That’s why it’s often recommended to take a break. It can mean so many different things. Like stepping away from the computer for 15 min. Or, taking a whole day off. It can also mean working on something else. Letting your brain rest from the original problem and project can be helpful.

The same can be said about being constantly emerged in the design industry. You’re at school, you learn about design. You’re at work, you’re designing. You’re at home you’re reading about design. When you’re talking with your friends you talk about design. Again, I applaud your dedication. But you need to find something else to be interested in.


For me, I love learning about human psychology albeit it cognitive or behavioral. The book Think Like a Freak has inspired me so much more than any design book I’ve read in the last year. Get a life outside of design to fuel your creative juices. I also love to travel and experience different cultures. Traveling has helped me become resourceful. Psychology and economics have helped me understand how humans work better. Imagine what physics or skateboarding can teach you.

O, one last thing. Designers don’t hire designers. So the more non-designer friends you have the more you’re going to expand your professional network. Bonus!

05. It’s all about communication.

Over the years I’ve learned something I always knew. Design is about communication. You’re trying to convince the visitor that your product is worth purchasing. How do you communicate that? You’re trying to explain the usefulness of a new feature to a user. How do you communicate that? You’re trying to sell more tickets. You’re trying to get more newsletter sign-ups. You’re trying to increase retention. Design is a medium for communication.

It’s never about how pretty it is. Pretty design doesn’t convert Informative designs do. It’s shocking I know. It’s hard to swallow too. But the sooner you realize this the better. Don’t try to convince anyone how the blue of this button looks so good. Try to convince everyone how effective your design is instead.

Another thing that you’ll find to be true is that you need to communicate with other on your team or a client. This can be your manager, the developers or a client. It’s not just about getting the user to convert. It’s about getting the rest of your team on the same page as you.

How will you communicate the specs of the feature to the developer? How will you communicate to your superior that their idea has a missing piece?


Don’t worry. Like I said, it will come with time. But try to think about design as a communication medium. And try to think of yourself as a communicator too. It will help you be so much better at your job.

I hope that shed some light for you. Whether you’re still in school or at your first full time job, I think these words of advice will come in handy.

I’ve recently been reflecting on the first years of my career versus now. Those are the five key things that I wish I understood when I was looking for a job after graduating college. Do you have any other questions?

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