10 things they never taught you at (interactive) design school


We ask leading interactive designers to tell us the most important things they’ve learned in their careers. What they say may surprise you.

James Alliban

“One of the main things I learned is how to promote myself. Utilising social media (properly), going to meet-ups and events, becoming an active member of a community, forming communities around your work, packaging and promoting each new piece, offering to contribute to events and mastering the art of networking are all important steps in getting your name known and your work seen.”

Brendan Dawes

“Don’t worry what other people are doing – concentrate on becoming an expert in your own work. Then practice that every day – make lots of things. A lot of that stuff will be crap, but you’ll know that because hopefully you have good taste, that good taste will allow you to filter out the good from the bad, and see the potential in the simply okay to then craft it to make it amazing. And publish it.”

Jacob Ford

“Steal from others – or perhaps better expressed – learn the qualities and traits you most admire from your mentors. Even those you might not appreciate still have abilities that got them where they are. Take note and learn. Whether it’s patience, criticism or storytelling, all these things become tools to use as you progress in work and in life. Which, in turn, can help you recognise and better understand your own weaknesses.”
Creative director: digital, ATTIK, attik.com

Phil Joyce

“Persuasion. It’s not something that comes naturally to many designers or developers, but it’s crucial to be able to sell an idea or methodology to clients. Be articulate. Talk convincingly. Show passion for what you’re interested in, be it responsive design, generative art, motion graphics, UX or whatever. You’ll get clients onside, be more commercial as an individual, and ultimately end up doing more of the projects you enjoy.”
Head of digital, Purple Creative, purplecreative.co.uk

Alex Maclean

“Something they just can’t teach you at school is experience, which is embodied in my favourite quote from The Shawshank Redemption: “Geology is the study of time and pressure. With enough time you can break out of prison with a teaspoon”. Likewise with enough dedication applied with skill over time, you will make a success of your design business or career.”
Creative director, Rupert Ray, rupertray.com

Dave McDougall

“What no-one ever tells you is that one of the greatest skills you need as a digital creative is to be able to constantly embrace change and evolve yourself every single day. It’s easy to sit back on what you’ve learned, when in fact you almost need to forget it all to stay fresh.”
Head of digital, Studio Output, studio-output.com

Nic Mulvaney

“The most important thing I’ve learned since leaving education is that you create your best work when you work with friends. So even if you’re working in a team of genius designers and creatives, if you don’t get on, it won’t be your best work. Friendship drives creativity.”
Lead interaction designer, AllofUs, allofus.com

Todd Purgason

“I’ve heard it said that great work presents itself, however, in my experience that’s only the case with a strong client. For most clients, great work needs to be delivered as a great story that draws in the client and gets them to see the vision and buy in. And then as a leader, you need to be able to tell that story in a way that shows genuine excitement and conviction for the work.”
Executive creative director, Juxt Interactive, juxtinteractive.com

Mark Tipper

“Never show a piece of creative for the first time without a recap of the basics: ‘What is the client about to see and what are you trying to achieve? What are the restrictions and what is the rationale?’ Even if it’s just 12 words on a cover slide or a paragraph in an email, it only has to take a few seconds to recap and this makes presenting ‘subjective’ design work much easier.”
Executive creative director, Possible, possibleworldwide.com

Will Weaver

“Worry that your work isn’t good enough and worry if you think that it is. Hold your hands up – you get respect for taking responsibility on mistakes made as well as for putting biscuits in the tin. Do both. And if you never make mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”
Senior designer, Kerb, kerb.co.uk


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