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10 Stuggles Only Designers Would Understand

10 Stuggles Only Designers Would Understand

Working as a designer isn’t as glorified as many of us like to make it out to be. Sure we sit behind our fancy computer setups with huge screens, sketching ‘pretty pictures’ in our Moleskin notebooks and can enjoy the perks of being location independent, but working in design can also be one of the most stressful, involving and cutting edge jobs out there. Here are 10 struggles all designers could absolutely relate to.

1. You constantly keep an eye on new software and design trends

Your education actually starts when you graduate from college as the design world revolves pretty fast. You have recently learned to adapt your app designs for IPhone 6, but everyone is now in frenzy for creating Apple Watch apps and UI design has an absolutely different set of rules to follow. You have two choices – learn and adapt or starve.

If you are lucky, your company will invest in your education and pay for some classes. For instance, Intellectsoft web development company offers their creative staff one new professional course per year. DDB Canada advertising agency offers every employee $250 to buy something that fuels creativity.

If you are freelance – well, you are on your own to struggle with getting new skills and continuing your schooling. Certainly, there are free design courses out there, but they are rarely offering advanced training, so you’ll have to invest into your own education.

2. You always need to figure out what exactly your client wants

Once again, you have this letter landing in your inbox saying “I want a new cool new design for my business.”

Great, you think, but what exactly do you mean by “cool new design” Is it just a website or do you need an identity established (i.e. logo, business cards, website, etc.)? Or a product design? Or just some covers for your social media profiles? Do you already have established business identity colors or do you need me to do everything from scratch?

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The biggest nightmare of any designer is taking the work, spending numerous hours working to afterwards here something like, “Meh…I don’t really like it.” Baffled you ask, “Is it the color scheme? Is it the layout? Is it the typography?” You just hear again, “I just don’t like it. You know, make it some other way.” And at that point you know you’ll have to start it all over again, proposing to the client more and more options of what you can possibly do.

Being a designer means having a great intuition and constantly second-guessing what your clients needs. You have to be a great listener as well and catch all bits of information your clients drop about their aesthetic preferences.

3. You find it awkward to explain the client that his current design. . .sucks

You’ve been trained to create easy-to-use, crispy clean websites that are easy-to-use. The clients that come to you obviously were not, yet they care about their business and it’s often hard for them to admit that their current appearance really sucks.

When you get approached by someone asking for a small design job, say new banner design, and you see that the whole website needs a complete revamp, as one banner definitely won’t make sales higher or users happier, you face a moral dilemma – tell the truth or just make that banner and don’t bother. It feels nearly as awkward as to tell a girl you like that she looks fat in that dress she’s wearing tonight.

If you are a true professional you need to carefully select words and suggest improvements to clients without being too imposing or arrogant. Instead of taking the “I know it better” approach, try to make mild suggestions first like: “Did you know that if you fix your check out, your sales may rise up to 20%?”

4. You prefer to work with one person, rather than a board

Your ideal client is is a one-person operation. He knows your ideas actually bring results, he loves your style, you get along perfectly well and work goes fast and smooth. Add a partner in tow, and the difficulty doubles. Add more people, and the difficulties expand exponentially.

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One person who hired you loves what you did, the other doesn’t like the layout or the logo. Someone else thinks you should use different fonts everywhere. One “can’t put a finger on it, but there’s definitely something wrong there.” Another believes that red color would bring the business bad luck.

But there’s also a flip-side: working with/for a big company with multiple decision makers typically brings in more money. So you have to choose whether you are ready to go through numerous circles of criticism or settle for a lower paycheck.

5. You will have to deal with a lot of “opinions” and critics

As a designer you have public profiles on Behance, Dribbble, a personal website showcasing your work, active Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook profiles where you also share your latest masterpieces.

You’ve poured your heart, soul and sweat into these projects for weeks and then see some pesky comment from Mr. Anonymous saying you’ve copied designer X, or that’s just some amateurish illustration a 5-year old kid could draw better. You learned not to take those people close to heart, but still, it hurts when you are getting poor feedback for nothing.

6. You can’t stand ugly fonts

You can walk into a cafe, see that their menu’s written in Comic Sans, stand up and leave, even though it’s one of the best new places in town. The easiest way to piss you off is to give you a typography poster with four different fonts mixed up together! You won’t read sites online with terrible fonts and you won’t buy books with inappropriate spacing. Beautiful clear fonts become your ideal.

7. You are often undercharging

“How much should I charge?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in the designer community, and with good reason—it’s a tough nut to crack.

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Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You know that hourly rates can mess with your efficiency and can have the client question why you have spent 5 hours designing a single leaflet. Fixed-price projects are hard to correctly calculate at the initial stage if we are talking of a full website development+logo+business cards+whatever else.

You often charge big companies the same rate you offer to small businesses, while you could definitely make more from the first one as they have budgets.

You often quote a lower price to realize later on you’ve been doing some work for peanuts. And again, it often seems uncomfortable to ask the client for extra pay when you are half-through the job.

Also, you constantly face a dilemma for when you should ask to get paid – after the job is done, before, in milestones after each stage completed. Negotiating that with a client can become one huge frustration.

8. You have to tone down your creativeness

Your client needs just one banner design, not a hand-drawn illustration that vaguely represents some concept behind his business. As a designer, you often need to keep your creative juices to yourself and don’t let them overtake the client’s objective. Leave those boldest art ideas for some personal art.

9. You need to have super effective communication skills

These days designers are as much creatives as sales people.

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You wish your clients could actually peek inside your head and see with your eyes what exactly you are proposing to them, but sadly all you have to use is your words. At the end of the day if you can’t talk about and explain your design in details, it may never see the light of day.

You need to be able to stand up for your ideas, explain your concepts and point out why they could work miracles for the business.

10. You either love design, or leave it

With all the struggles mentioned above, weird working hours, questioning your creativity and facing blocks, you need to have a true passion for art and design if you’d like to succeed in the field.

If you don’t love what you do, you will likely get burned out soon. An optimistic attitude and a true love for conveying powerful messages through a visual medium and bringing in more beauty in the world will help you stay focused on your career and become a top professional everyone admire (even the harshest critics).

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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