The 24 Habits of Successful Designers

habits of successful designers

It can take a career to to develop the habits of successful designers.  If you’re interested in becoming a design authority in your industry, follow this list of 24 and you’ll be there in no time.

The 24 Habits of Successful Designers

  1. Really go the extra mile – People talk about going the ‘extra mile’ all the time for their clients.  But this really goes beyond same day phone calls and keeping everyone informed.  Going the extra mile meanings standing out (in a good way) and doing things that no one else is thinking of.  Sure you can send a standard thank you or holiday letter to your clients, but are you willing to gift wrap it or also provide them with a personalized link to a custom video thank you?
  2. Lose your ego for the design – When you’ve really gotten a hold of design, you’ll notice that a concept for a project develops the design on it’s own.  The projects I’ve received awards on have embodied this idea.  So lose your ego, and don’t simply force what you want.  Be smart and willing to admit when you’ve made a poor design decision and change it to the right one.
  3. Push through the stress – Someone once told me that when you’re stressed you’re learning something.  I tend to agree with that, but what’s more is that on the other side of stress is usually a greener pasture.
  4. Have hobbies outside of your industry – The best way to stay innovative is to be well rounded.  When you’re constantly ‘in it’ it’s hard to get new perspectives.  Plus, being able to get away from design for a bit can be a great recharge.
  5. Be punctual – The older I get the more I notice that time is the most valuable thing we have.  Don’t waste yours or anyone else’s.  Successful designers show up on time and don’t  give anyone the run articulate
  6. Be articulate – Trying to convey a great idea with poor delivery is a recipe for disaster.  Know what you want to say back and forth and listen to how great speakers talk. is a great place for find great talks from articulate presenters.
  7. Be thorough – I often find that when I get through something I’m ready to be done.  Often, what I just finished has mistakes here and there.  Make sure everything you say and do is clear and concise.
  8. Be transparent – In the past, I’ve tried to fix mistakes I’ve made on my own, often to find that they blow up ten-fold.  Be transparent about your mistakes and keep everyone informed of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way.  Trust me, you’ll avoid headaches in the long run and grow much faster.
  9. Say ‘Yes’, but know when to say ‘No’ – Whenever a new opportunity comes up you should always be willing to consider it.  When in doubt, say ‘Yes’ because you can always back out of a bad decision.  On the contrary know when to say ‘No’ to people who are looking to take advantage of you, or when you’re going to overextend yourself.
  10. Concentrate on how to make something from nothing – The best designers are able to make the most of opportunity no matter how big or small.  If you’ve got $20 to spend, be innovative to make the most of it.
  11. Make smarter, better choices – When your stressed or crunched for time, it’s easy to choose the easy route to get things done.  What I’ve learned time and time again is that the easy route is only a quick fix to postpone stress which often becomes wasted time.  Stay organized, on task, and make the right decisions the first time.
  12. Don’t allow yourself to be put under unrealistic time constraints – You have some control over the time constraints that are given to you.  Push back when something’s unrealistic.  You’ll be surprised when you start to push back that people are often understanding (especially if you’re not always claiming you’re pressed for time)
  13. Humble but strong – No one likes someone who’s really arrogant, so don’t be.  Be humble and pleasant to be around but know your stuff and don’t be afraid to take a stand for the right decision (as long as you’re not doing it simply for your ego)
  14. Ask questions – When I first became a professional designer I was afraid to ask questions in fear that they’d be dumb ones.  If you’re working at a good place, they’ll be willing to answer them. I actually found out that a lot of my questions were legitimate and sometimes no one knew the answer them them.
  15. Know your industry – Subscribe to blogs, magazines, and newsletters that will keep you up to date on current trends.  Show you know what you’re talking about and that you have relevant designs that will work now and in the foreseeable future. network to become a successful designer
  16. Network – Skill and talent only go so far.  Most of success comes from the people you know, so whenever you get a chance, expand your network.  Meet new people and create meaningful relationships.
  17. Get involved – You’ll make a ton of new friends and connections by getting involved.  It’s a way to network, but approach getting involved more as a way to grow.
  18. Acquire letters at the end of your name – One way to show you’re an expert in your field and gain respect is to get some letters at the end of your name.  I took the LEED Green Associate exam to do this.  Checkout my LEED Green Associate guide if you’re interested in pursuing that as well.
  19. Be loyal but have vision – Having an employer is a great way to gain experience and it’s important to maintain a good relationship with them, but just like they’re always looking for the best people, you need to also be looking for the best experience.  If you’re not getting anywhere where you’re at, it’s time to move.  Look at yourself as a business.
  20. Become an authority – People want to follow authority so become one.  Write a book in your industry or give a talk.  Become an expert at something and opportunity will pop up in other areas as well.
  21. Keep in touch – A huge part of networking is making sure you keep in touch.  When you build your network, give periodic calls and emails to keep those connections.
  22. Never waste your time – If you’re working overtime for an employer or client and not getting compensated for it, make sure there’s something in it for you.  Are you building your portfolio or resume with something awesome?  Is this going to open doors for you?
  23. Listen – Learning is important to successful designers.  One of the best ways to learn is to listen to those who have spent time in the industry.  Soak in what they’re saying and why they’re saying it.successful designers review their work
  24. Review your own work – Possibly one of the most important things I’ve learned is to make sure your work passes your own review before giving it to anyone else.  That way you’re ensuring that your own work is up to your own standards.  You should try to be your own worst critic.


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    […] Don’t fret though,  if you happen to find yourself in the situation, there are action steps at the end of each item to help turn the tide.  Also, feel free to checkout our 24 habits of successful designers. […]

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