On the one hand, the digital age has brought with it lots of opportunities for designers to present themselves online and showcase their knowledge – on the other hand, these opportunities are open to all and it’s become harder and harder to stand out in the crowd, make a name for yourself and get ahead.
A picture says a thousand words and creatives have to let their work do the talking, but these days designers often need to go above and beyond the essential portfolio to get noticed. With this in mind, we’ve collected a few ways in which you can put yourself and your knowledge out there and make the connections you need to succeed as a creative freelance professional.
Share your skills online… in bite-size videos
You are a highly skilled individual, you know it, your mum knows it, but the world doesn’t know it yet! Is there a topic that you are a specialist in? Could you give a tutorial on a specific aspect of your design practice? Do you have a radical way of approaching an age-old process? – If the answer is yes, then why not share your knowledge?! Whether we’re talking Skillshare, YouTube or a.n.other platform, we seem to be living in the age of DIY-how-tos and if you have something unique to offer or an uncommon take on a common theme then there is almost certainly room for you in the market.
San Francisco-based Illustrator Roman Muradov‘s set of videos on – Expressive Illustration: From Ideas to Execution – is a great example of this. He was actually approached by Skillshare to think about doing something on their platform – and decided it would be a great opportunity to adapt some of his teaching methods for a broader, online audience.
But you don’t need to wait to be asked, sharing your skills in videos online helps you on the way to becoming an influencer in your field. Keep your clips short, sharp and to the point and you’ll be on to something.
Start a podcast… and connect with your design community
A dying art form no more, podcasts seems to have outlived their sell-by-date and are sprouting up all over the internet like nobody’s business! Maybe you’ve got a lot to say, but you don’t want to get in front of the camera – podcasts could be the answer for you! Podcasts generally aren’t as polished as video tutorials/vlogs – so that’s another plus!
The podcast format lends itself particularly well to conversations – so is a perfect excuse to invite your design idols and others you would like to connect with join you for a show. If you find your own unique slant, cover topics that interest you and resonate well and manage to build up a following, you will have a useful platform to share your views with a broad audience and get exposure. Here are a few examples that hit the nail on the head…
- Boagworld offers practical advice, news, tools, review and interviews with leading figures in the design community. Covering everything from usability and design to marketing and strategy, there’s something for everybody. www.boagworld.com
- Design Details, part of the spec.fm network, is a show about the people who design our favourite products. www.spec.fm/podcasts/design-details
- All about design, Design Matters with Debbie Millman is an inquiry into the broader world of creative culture through wide-ranging conversations with designers, writers, artists, curators, musicians, and other luminaries of contemporary thought. www.debbiemillman.com/designmatters
- Knight Moves joined forces with the Service Design Network to launch Service Design Podcast. They invite Service Design experts from around the globe to talk about topics close to their hearts. www.servicedesignpodcast.com
Blog regularly… and get your design opinions out there
If you’re more into the written word, then blogging is probably a good choice for you. Whether you choose to build up a following for your own blog – or join the team of an already established blog – it can be a great way to hone your design critiquing confidence.
It’s important to think about what your unique selling point (aka usp) could be – what topics or viewpoints do you think are missing in the blogosphere? What will make your voice stand out? If you get lucky and your writing is in tune with the zeitgeist, then even a single post can get you a lot of attention, helping you to make connections and build relationships.
- Ambalaj is a packaging design blog founded by designer Kristina de Verdier. The blog showcases carefully selected content from all over the world; covering material innovation, structural packaging, graphic design as well as beautiful brand stories. www.ambalaj.se
- BP&O – Branding, Packaging and Opinion is a blog dedicated to sharing opinions on the latest brand identity and package design run by British designer Richard Baird. www.bpando.org
- Logo Design Love was launched as a side project in 2008 by David Airey, a website (and now two books) devoted to the design of logos and brand identities. www.logodesignlove.com
Build up a following on Instagram … and show off your visual storytelling skills
If words aren’t really your thing, then stick to what you know: visual imagery and curate an Instagram account that reflects your way of of looking at your design field and more. Post your own work, inspirational style shots and/or give a sneak peek into your lifestyle, get the right mix for you and it can be golden! Here are some golden examples for you:
- Anthony Burrill is a British graphic artist, printmaker and designer, perhaps best known for his typographic, text-based compositions, including the now-famous “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”. Words and language are an important part of Burrill’s output and he has developed a distinctive voice that is sought after not only by collectors of his posters and prints but also by clients … and his Instagram followers.
- Lauren Hom aka Hom Sweet Hom is a California-born, Brooklyn-based designer and letterer, known for her bright colour palettes and playful letterforms. She also authors the popular blog (and now book) Daily Dishonesty. The self-titled travelling illustrator shares work in progress, inspiration and other news on her Instagram.
- Margherita Urbani is a New York-based Italian illustrator and art director. With a wry sense of humour, her comics and illustrations often explore the challenges, both linguistic and otherwise, of being “other.” – She shares pics of her day-to-day, her travels and her work on Instagram.
Join a “design-a-day” challenge… or initiate your own
Creating a design a day for 100 days in a row is a great challenge to set yourself if you’ve hit a creative block or you want to master a new skill. If you link your efforts in with an existing challenge or popular #hashtag it can get you lots of exposure and you can build up an encouraging follow. There are many various versions of the design-a-day project out there – the team from The Great Discontent described their 100-Day Project so:
“It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.”
You could join in with established challenges like #36daysoftype or Daily UI or you could come up with your own personal challenge. Whether you choose logo design like Robert Butkovic, lettering like Tiantian Xu or architectural illustrations like Fabiola Muñoz and Carlos León of Estudio Extramuros, make sure you pick something that it going to highlight your skills and that is likely to pick up some traction. The task should be simply defined but, at the same time, leave lots of room for creative exploration and expression. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a design a day – your challenge could be…
- Weekly like Christoph Niemann who set himself the task of creating an illustration in response to and including an object every Sunday – and so Abstract Sunday was born.
- Every time you go on an aeroplane like Gemma O’Brien, Sydney-based typographer, and illustrator who started The Spew Bag Challenge – using her time up in the air to come up with clever chunder-based puns and create hand-letter masterpieces on the provided sick bags – join in the fun on Instagram – #spewbagchallenge.
- Or yearly – In it for the long haul, lettering artist Erik Marinovich started his #Frostabet project four years ago. The idea is simple… sculpt a letter of the alphabet out of snow, annually. This year he was on E – so only 21 more years to go!
I hope that’s given you a few insights into some of the steps you can take to get yourself and your brand out there, make a name for yourself and make those all important connections.