Being a successful designer is about more than artistic ability or having an amazing portfolio. While technical prowess and formal education are of course important, it’s often a designer’s soft skills and personality traits that make them particularly suitable to the career. During the interview stage especially, it’s what sets them apart from candidates of a similar background.

These are the key skills that separate good designers from great designers in the eyes of design studio and department heads, and HRs at large organisations.

Communication skills

The ability to navigate briefs and work with different stakeholders is a critical part of the role of a designer. Whether you're working for an agency, a startup or for yourself you need to be able to articulate the elements of each project, push back on deadlines, negotiate rates and present ideas coherently.

If you're a freelancer you'll likely have to build up a network of clients to ensure a steady flow of work. Reputation and self promotion can be key to securing jobs so you need to be sure you can explain articulately what is it you offer potential customers – and what you can’t offer them.

Problem solving

Graphic designers need to be analytical and really question what problem their design is solving. It’s not just about creativity, it’s about functionality, usability and often, storytelling. The best designers will approach each brief as a problem that needs to be solved and will then look at a number of possible solutions, taking into account budget, brand guidelines, audience, etc.

Tech savviness

Having a good grasp of emerging technologies is necessary regardless of what industry you’re in. Increased digitalisation and automation is fast becoming the norm across the board. For design specifically, software for producing digital print is an advantage with programs like InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop being particularly popular.

Certain design roles will also require a knowledge of web design and programming languages such as CSS and HTML. This skillset will not only make you a more rounded designer, it will also help you to keep your online portfolio in good shape.

Time management

Designers need to take a practical approach to dividing up their workload and ensuring they’re not spending too much time on one element of a project. Regardless of how innovative the design may be, if it’s not within the required deadline it won’t be a success. If you’re working in a company, failure to deliver on a timeline will have a knock on effect on other stakeholders involved in the project and could even delay the launch/completion of a campaign.

Resilience

To really make an impact as a designer you need to push the boundaries and combine ideas and processes you haven’t before. While this often leads to more innovative design, it can also lead to more push back and even criticism.

Critical feedback can be difficult to take but being able to accept it and take it on board will not only improve your output, it will improve your reputation. Clients and creative directors love to work with design teams who are open to collaboration and not afraid of critique.

Looking for your next design role? Find it on #DigitalArtsJobs.