Designer skills needed to be successful in the workplace

Published: 10 November, 2018

Categories: General

Designer skills needed to be successful in the workplace

Designer skills needed to be successful in the workplace

Because drawing isn’t the only skill a designer needs.

When I get asked to define good design I usually give the short and sweet answer: “When an object is designed well, it usually functions and/or looks good.” Now truth is that good design can’t be summed up in a simple sentence as I just did. Good design is specific to the user. When designers design, they apply their knowledge and skills to a specific scenario, a specific end-user. For each scenario you as a designer need to possess or learn a certain set of skills and as the title suggests these skills aren’t limited to drawing, painting or the arts.

The skills I am about to talk about are skills that I have found useful in my career as a designer.

Emotional control:

As a designer, you will be working with other people. Whether it’s the client, the architect of a building, other designers or sub-contractors, there will always be somebody you need to deal with. Each design you work on will be customized to a certain extent, which means you will be making something new. You are introducing these people to the great and terrifying new method/product. Things will go wrong somewhere, but that’s you when the designer, who keeps his cool, saves the day.

A designer needs to keep a cool head and focus on the bigger picture. Not all designs work the very first time, and despite the fact that you poured your heart and soul into the product, the end user might just hate the initial idea, the product might be installed wrong, or better yet the original structure might break. It happens, but when it happens the best solution is not to break down and cry and give up, rather to go back to the drawing board and draw up a plan to make whatever is broken work.

Project Management:

I find this skill extremely important, if not the most important skill on this list. Time and task management is crucial to get projects finished at the right time, and for a project to be successful, it needs to end on schedule.

I have found that things go much smoother on jobs when there is some form of a project plan in place. Mainly because you have the ability to plan in advance. Project plans or schedules make it much easier to avoid double bookings with conflicting traits, like installing curtains and varnishing wooden floors on the same time for example, because the logic is done while you plan the project.

But double bookings aren’t the only hassle project plans solve. As we sometimes rely on other people to complete things that we can’t, like manufacturing as an example, our suppliers might not be done on time and delay the project to be finished. Project plans are often a great tool to manage these delays making rescheduling easier.

Bare in mind that you will need a good understanding of the scope of the project that you are planning. Making unrealistic plans are a waste of time.

Finally, project plans, when graphed out properly can show a client where you are in the project and can give the client a realistic idea of when they can expect the project to be done.


You will need to communicate with the client. You will need to communicate with the manufacturer. You will need to communicate as part of the research. So it definitely helps if you are good at it.

People will often come to you seeking a solution to their problem. It is your job as the designer to take the time to make sure you understand what the problem is that needs to be solved. This sounds much easier than it actually is.

Loving knowledge

This last point is definitely a skill. As a designer, you need to learn, do research, observe-, collect- and compile data. This means you will gain knowledge. Successful designers learned to love knowledge. Success can only be achieved when you do what you love.