A Letter to a Struggling UI/UX Designer

Struggling designer
Illustration by Sue Ai

I love everything about our craft. Chasing the tiniest little details, striving for simplicity, and always looking for the best solutions.

Together with engineers, we’re capable of building products with close to no resources. As designers, all we need is a few shapes and some colors, while developers need their code.

As a digital designer, my days feel creative, exciting, challenging, and rewarding. If you’re often chasing that perfect shade of grey for everything to align just perfectly — you’ll know what I’m talking about.

We get to celebrate many small design victories throughout the day. Knowing that eventually, someone out there will get to experience our very carefully crafted UI.

It’s not all roses though, especially if you’re early in your career. You might not get the most rewarding opportunity from the get-go. And you might stumble upon a few ‘clients from hell’, but that’s part of the journey. You’re going to need this experience later on in your career, so hang on in there.

Enjoy the journey, including the not so good days. Embrace the challenges, and think of them as stepping stones. Without them, there’s not much growth happening.

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Inexperienced designers struggle to get that first job offer. A decade ago, when I had worn those shoes — it was easier because there was not that much competition around.

Companies should hire more junior level designers. Having a healthy mix of both senior and junior designers is beneficial from every angle you want to look at it. Besides, most inexperienced designers are very hungry, energetic, and motivated to prove themselves.

Until you land that first job opportunity, keep working on your portfolio, supplement it with a good book or two, and keep investing in your skills.

One skill in particular that can set you apart from the competition is learning the basics of HTML and CSS. It will not only improve your communication with developers but also the look and feel of your designs, once they’re alive and implemented. It’s a great little skill to have as a product designer, and we can see more and more job openings looking for it.

If you’ve tried all of the above already, keep fighting. There’s not much else you can do. Early in my career, I was being met with rejections left and right. Know that each rejection is a lesson learned. Things will work out if you keep moving forward.

Become so good they can’t ignore you.

Originally published in my weekly newsletter UX Things

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