Careers in Design Survival Guide

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Creative Survival Photo from Shutterstock

The Careers in Design Survival Guide: Becoming a Jack-of-All-Trades

When thinking about careers in design, most people pick a niche. Once landing a job within an organization or even freelancing, you quickly learn that you need to be a jack-of-all-trades. Luckily, HOW and Print produced the Expert Guide Creative Survival: Finding Success by Working Across Disciplines to navigate you through unknown territory.

Paul Wyatt, author, creative director and broadcaster, shares his experiences in climbing out of the niche and expanding his skills to fit other disciplines. In this expert guide, he details how you can do the same. Below is an excerpt from the Creative Survival Guide.

Careers in Design Survival GuideMultidisciplinary Working:

The key to success is to understand that you need to be flexible and become a specialist generalist—in other words, a specialist who can diversify. Painting yourself into a corner by sticking with one niche, specialist skill is a dangerous choice when it comes to future-proofing your career. Core skills combined with a more generalist approach to digital make you a much more attractive proposition to an employer.

It makes sense for an agency to want to put together a team of individuals with core competencies who can branch out rather than a team of one-trick ponies who work in a siloed fashion. This “silo” or “pipeline” way of working is where one individual does their specialist bit and then passes it onto another who in turn passes it onto somewhere else. It’s a specialist creative conveyor and one that misses out on two essential ingredients for creative working: collaboration and understanding.

If you’re a designer working on an interface layout, then having a working knowledge of how it needs to be built and fluidly designed to work on different devices and platforms will save time when it goes into development. You’ll also be able to work collaboratively with the developer, as you’ll understand his concerns and he’ll be able to see where you’re trying to get to with the layout. This might sound a little bit idealized for the real world, but at least you’ll both have enough knowledge of what the other does in order to create a level playing field so you can thrash out a solution together.

The convergence of relatable skills between these two areas—design and development—is evident in the new breed of creative technologists, where developers and creative come together. It’s a perfect pairing when you come to think of it, as coding is as creative a pursuit as pixel pushing but is rarely thought of as such because it’s notoriously hard to show a client that a coder has been creative with code. It’s much easier to engage them with a well-designed interface that they can see and mutter over.

It’s important for creatives not to see creativity and technology as two separate things. Programmers, coders and creatives need to come together at the initial project kickoff meeting and ask, “What can we do together?” At this point, it becomes truly creative and unrestricted by the knowledge of just one person

To see the full excerpt, click this download link.


Find out how you can collaborate more effectively with this HOW Live session, Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Design. In today’s ever-competitive design marketplace, employers are increasingly looking for skill sets including-among other things- “an ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others” and “experience working in interdisciplinary teams.” Frank Baseman will discuss what he has learned (and is still learning) and some of the trials and tribulations he has encountered along the way.

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