The Things You Wish They Told You: 9 Pieces of Advice For Emerging Designers

When it comes to starting your career in design, nothing is “normal”. Each person’s experience, goals, and path are different. But regardless of the route you take, there are some tried and true pieces of advice that can help get you there.

So we went ahead and asked some of our fellow designers to share the pieces of advice they wish someone had told them when they were getting just getting started. This is what they said…

Be Persistent

Be persistent, and of course don’t get discouraged too easily. When you reach out to people, whether it be to introduce yourself, for job opportunities, or just general advice, you might not get anywhere at first… We’ve all been there. If they don’t respond or find time for you right away, try again! There’s a fine line to walk here: always provide enough time for a response, but don’t be afraid to follow up multiple times.

You might feel like an annoying gnat, but your perseverance will pay off one way or another.

Try Everything

Get as many different kinds of design experience as possible (print, digital, packaging, animation, etc.). Once you’ve tried everything, you’ll know which road you want to go down and can show a narrower focus within your portfolio.


You’ve heard this before, but we’ll tell you again—network. Talk to everyone. Join everything. Just get involved! Whether that be organizations, clubs, speaking engagements, blogs, local slack channels, forums, AIGA Charlotte… Sometimes it’s about what you know, a lot of the time it’s about who you know.

Take Every Opportunity (& Yourself) Seriously

It’s important to have your career goals in mind, but a lot of meetings and projects that don’t quite fit into your plan will still pop up. By taking every chance to present yourself, make acquaintances, do good work, or gather information, you make it more likely that you’ll be in consideration when the opportunities you really want arise.

Follow Your Curiosity

Everything you spend your time learning about, exploring, and discovering adds to your unique perspective and influences your work. Inspiration is everywhere if you’re paying attention. So pay attention!


So many of us look back at our first resume and portfolio materials and cringe at our excessive use of fonts, colors and visual elements. Keep it simple so your work, personality, and experience can be the star of the show.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

When you’re up against another designer and their work is picked over yours, that doesn’t mean your solution was bad, it just means it was different. It’s super important as a young designer to keep this mindset—especially in a classroom setting where you spend so much time comparing your work to others.

Learn To Tell Your Story

Learning how to communicate and present your work is critical—especially when you are just starting out. Because of this, don’t be afraid to share your decision-making process with those who aren’t designers. Learning to tell the story of what you’ve created can demystify what designers are and can do, and let your client/stakeholder into the process. Dig deeper than just reiterating what’s in your “book” or your presentation, address the “why” behind it.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail.

Be flexible, be thick-skinned, and don’t fall too much in love with your work (this can be very challenging). Remember that every failure is a step to success. So, keep failing and keep stepping!

Mentor Matchup Logo

This post is written in conjunction with our Mentor Matchup program. Each month, we’ll be publishing a blog post that speaks to emerging designers—from tips like these, to a Q & A with Charlotte-area design leaders, “a day in the life” spotlights, and more.
By aigacharlotte
Published December 16, 2018