Launching Your Design Career – Tips for getting started

If you are the kind of individual that sees aesthetics as a problem to be solved through the creative use of modern technology, becoming a professional designer can be a fulfilling career choice. Anyone can learn how to do design work provided they study hard and practice often, but the difficulty lies in knowing where to start.

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Design is a diverse field, and in many instances it converges with other areas of human endeavor such as art, business, marketing, psychology, software development, and others. In other words, there are multiple entrances to the labyrinth that is design, and your initial choice on how to approach the subject matter will determine whether you will reach the goal in a reasonable amount of time, or get sidetracked and delayed along the way.

In order to help you on your journey towards becoming a professional designer, we offer a curated list of tips that you ought to keep in the back of your head while working on your first designs.

 

1. Explore the Design Landscape

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get started with design is to begin at the end, and work backwards. In other words, you should first try to determine what would be your end-game as designer, and then connect that with where you are now.

There are numerous kinds of design work available, and not all of them necessarily involve visual aesthetics. Designers work on user interfaces for software applications, they create user experiences for websites, they research how color influences perception, and everything in between.

You should try to get acquainted with these kinds of work, and decide which involve problems you would enjoy solving. After you narrow down your choice a bit, move on to examining what kind of design services are being offered on the market.

For example, if you have an interest in web design, you can check out portfolios of professional design companies to see what will be expected of you when working for one.

 

2. Start Working on a Project

Once you get comfortable with things like design lingo, the big names in the field, and the technologies commonly used, you should try you hand at creating a design. Nothing builds skill faster than using it to solve problems, and the sooner you start, the more experience you will have under your belt down the line. However, creating something from scratch for the first time can be a daunting task – where do you even begin?

We feel that the best approach would be to come up with a specific challenge for yourself, such as creating a simple logo, editing a photo, or making a simple web page, and then browse online for articles and tutorials that will walk you through the process on the technical side. Alternatively, you can enroll in a course that includes practical projects which you can work on while you study.

 

3. Learn to Think Like a Designer

After you get comfortable with creating simple designs, you can start to reflect more on what makes a particular design effective. Ask yourself the following:

  • Which of your designs do you like the best, and what are your least favorite ones?
  • How would you improve a design you don’t like?
  • What are the common elements you find in the designs you like?
  • What is the first thing you notice when trying to evaluate a design?

By getting into the habit of asking questions such as these, you will slowly prime your mind to think in terms of design. Once you get comfortable with doing this, you can try to read up more on design theory.

Having a solid theoretical foundation on design won’t automatically make your designs better, but it will give you a wide perspective on the field as a whole, which is a valuable skill to have for finding work.

 

4. Understand Consumer Psychology

If you wish to pursue a career in design, you need to be aware that what you will be creating is ultimately a product meant to be sold to consumers. And since this is the case, it is essential to something about the psychology associated with both.

Getting into the mind of your intended audience will enable you to tailor your designs to their particular needs and desires, which is crucial if you wish to find and maintain employment in the design industry. There are two principal ways to approach design psychology:

  • One is to start from the top and examine the demographic characteristics of your customers such as age, gender, cultural region, etc., and progressively narrow down your focus.
  • The other is to start from specific customers, and then try to establish commonalities and patterns in their preferences and behaviors related to your designs.

 

5. Reach Out to Other Designers

As with any kind of work, design is a collective effort. Without there being a community of designers beforehand, it would be next to impossible to have any sort of progress in the field as a whole, and each individual designer would have to discover everything from scratch.

Fortunately, the networking potential of modern communication technologies, especially the internet, has enabled designers to connect with each other and share knowledge. As a prospective designer, you should leverage this fact to its full extent.

Whenever you have doubts, questions, suggestions, or criticisms related to design, try getting in touch with other designers and start a conversation. Not only will this help you solve design related problems, but it will also give you a fresh perspective on your own designs, which is invaluable for all creative endeavors.

 

6. Enroll in a Design Class

To take the previous tip a step further, you can enroll in a professional design school if your free time and budget allow for it.

High-profile design schools such as Aalto University, Politecnico di Milano, or the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will give you holistic design education which will enable you to confidently pursue your career goals.

Smaller local schools and colleges lack the prestige of these institutions, but don’t underestimate what they can offer either – being surrounded by knowledge-hungry students and an enthusiastic teaching staff is often all it takes to get one motivated to learn.

You can also apply for an internship at design company, if you prefer a more hands-on approach to learning design. Being an intern has other benefits as well, such as learning how to work within a team, a skill that is highly sought after no matter what kind of design work you plan on doing in the future.

 

7. Present Your Work

Cheerful diverse people showing pie chart on a tablet

Designed by Rawpixel.com

As with most jobs on today’s market, in order to succeed as a designer you will need to promote yourself and your work. After all, if no one is aware of your designs, why would they hire you for a project or approach you with a job offer?

Promotion can take on many forms, from explicit marketing, to simply having your portfolio hosted online, but the idea is always the same – show your work to as many people as possible. Presenting your designs to the public is also a great way to solicit criticism, which is crucial for becoming a better designer.

If you are shy about present people half-baked products, ask your family and friends for opinions. Even if they don’t match the profile of your intended audience, they can still give you valuable clues regarding which parts of your design work well, and which don’t.

 

Conclusion

Few areas of modern business are as exciting as that of design. The ability to earn a living from doing creative work is attractive to a lot of people, and for good reason. But in order to get there, you have put in the effort, and we hope that our tips will be of use to you on your journey.

5 Tips to Create a Killer Design Portfolio

If you are a designer – whether it be graphic, interior, or web design – you know you need to have examples of your work to show perspective clients. Your portfolio will tell your unique story and showcase your aesthetic.

It is the most important asset for your creative business, so put some time and effort into curating a body of work that will be sure to impress. Having a stunning portfolio conveys that you are a talented professional with the skills and experience to produce high quality work.

The following are 5 tips to help you put together a killer portfolio and start landing jobs with your dream clients.

1. Choose pieces that represent the types of jobs you want.

When you’re first starting out as a freelancer in the design world, you will probably take on jobs that pay the bills, but aren’t necessarily your passion. That’s completely fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to display all of that “making-ends-meet” work in your portfolio.

Have you heard the expression “dress for the job you want?” Well, it’s the same idea here. If you show work that is in line with your dream clients and projects, you will attract more people looking for that type of work.

2. Be selective.

Tip #1 segues nicely into this second tip. Be very picky when it comes to choosing pieces for your portfolio. Quality over quantity is the rule here!

It’s ok to have a limited amount of work in your portfolio, and in fact, it’s preferable to filling it with fluff just to increase its size. I would suggest having at least 8-10 projects in your portfolio. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend including more than 16-20 pieces. People have incredibly short attention spans and sometimes too much information can confuse and dissuade potential clients.

If you’re just starting out and have a very limited number of items to show, consider doing self-led conceptual projects where you come up with a fictitious client who has a specific need and problem to solve using your design skills. Or use a resource like this website, RookieUp, which offers a Portfolio Starter Kit that will help you get started for a small fee.

3. Show your process.

It can be really helpful and eye-opening for clients to get a look at your process. It’s one thing to describe it on your website and another thing entirely to show images of each step.

As a graphic designer who creates brand identities for my clients, I create tons of sketches and versions of the branding elements I design for each project. Sharing these allows me to show how much effort and creativity goes into each project. It also helps people feel more comfortable working with me because they’ve gotten a glimpse into what the journey will be like when they are the client.

4. Present it beautifully.

How you present your portfolio is just as important as what you present in your portfolio. Make sure you display your portfolio in a clean and organized way.

These days it may not be necessary to have a physical portfolio; an online presence may suffice and even be the easiest option for all involved.

design websites on Squarespace and am able to provide beautiful, modern online “homes” for my clients to show off their beautiful work. Whatever platform you choose, make sure the presentation is simple and easy-to-navigate, that each piece is chosen and displayed thoughtfully, and the overall arrangement flows well.

5. Keep it current.

Styles and trends come and go and your skills will improve over time. Be sure you are consistently updating your portfolio so that is reflects your current aesthetic and skill set.

Try to edit existing work and add new work on a quarterly basis, if possible. Schedule some time in to do it along with your quarterly tax and accounting tasks and you’ll always have a fresh, relevant portfolio.

Your portfolio is the heart and soul of your design business. It shows what you can do and what you have to offer. So get to it – design, curate and confidently show off your amazing work!

3 Design Portfolio Projects to Help You Launch Your Career

Building a design portfolio is hard. Especially when you’re just starting to learn the fundamentals of design, coming up with ideas for projects to help you practice your skills and start to build up a solid portfolio can feel overwhelming.

To help you get started, here are three great projects you can work on early in your design education to give you a sense for a few different types of Visual Design projects you might be working on as a full-time designer at a company or agency.

 

How to get started on these projects

For all of these projects, start by conducting some research. Depending on the project, see how other companies have tackled similar projects. Then familiarize yourself with the average consumer to understand who they are and why they choose one brand over another. For these particular projects, think about how a logo or marketing campaign could cause them to prefer one product over another.

Next, create a moodboard! A moodboard is a cohesive set of imagery that speaks to the tone, brand voice, color palette, and typography style that the project will ultimately consist of. Then, arrange it into a cohesive moodboard to inform your brainstorming process.

With the help of your moodboard, brainstorm ideas. Think about the customers, the industry, and the product itself. In 10-20 minutes, sketch out small thumbnails for 10 ideas. Get all of your ideas on paper, whether they’re good or bad!

After that, refine! Pick a few of your favorite designs and begin refining them by creating vector versions in Illustrator. Refine your two favorite concepts, including typography, color, and the overall placement of imagery and text. After refining, show your designs to a friend or mentor and ask for feedback. Conducting user research is a crucial part of any good design process.

Now, finalize the design, making everything pixel perfect.

That’s it! Now let’s dive into the projects…

Digital Marketing Banner

First, let’s design a digital marketing banner for a product of your choice.

Digital marketing is overshadowing traditional forms of advertising (e.g. television, print, outdoor advertising) as the preferred method of building brand awareness and selling products by companies across nearly every industry. Digital marketing can be tracked to an incredible degree of detail and businesses can target digital advertising to the exact consumers they want to expose their brand to.

Identify a company whose product you’d like to design a digital marketing banner for. If you come up with a fictional company, think about industries you’re interested in (ideally industries where you’d like to eventually work as a designer) and choose a product you want to promote for your fictional client.

Your final deliverable should be a 970×250 and 300×600 digital display banner (two of the most common sizes for digital banners).

Logo Redesign

This is a mini project brief to redesign a logo for a company of your choosing.

A company’s logo is the most distilled version of its brand identity and should serve the purpose of helping to build awareness amongst consumers and differentiate the brand from its competitors. A strong logo should be instantly recognizable, memorable, and not overly complex. Logos can be any combination of graphic elements, letters, or even full words.

Think about industries you like and identify a company whose brand you think would be strengthened by a logo redesign. If you come up with a fictional company, think about industries you’re interested in and make up a fictional company in that space that you’ll design a logo for. Write a few words about their brand, product, and customers.

Your final design should be a color and black and white version of the logo.

 

Email Campaign Design

For this project, you should design an email campaign for a startup client. Emails might not be the most exciting sounding project, but designing an effective email is an incredibly valuable skill, as most companies you’ll work at will have active email marketing strategies.

Email is one of the most efficient and effective marketing channels used by companies to turn potential customers into paying customers and also to help turn one-time customers into lifetime customers. Email allows brands to experiment with different messages and offers to see what customers and leads respond to most.

Most strong email campaigns include compelling imagery, a description of the company’s product as well as the main use cases or benefits of the product, and a strong call to action urging the reader to visit a particular page of their site.

For this project, start by coming up with an idea for a product that a company in an industry you like could be selling. Choose a specific product and use that product as the basis for your email. Once you’ve come up with a product, design a single email whose purpose is to convince readers to purchase the product.

Your final design should be beautifully designed email.

 

Conclusion

After completing these projects, figure out which you enjoy the most. Are you most interested in helping companies design effective branding or does the idea of helping build effective marketing campaigns excite you more? Continue experimenting with lots of different types of projects as you go and you’ll be well on your way to figuring out your design niche and launching a career that you’ll love.

If you want help coming up with more project ideas and building your own ideas into amazing projects, check out our Portfolio Starter Kit, the ultimate resource to help you launch your dream portfolio and career.

5 Great UX/UI Design Portfolio Projects for Beginners

So you’ve decided to start a career in UX/UI Design. Great! The market for User Experience and User Interface Design jobs is booming and there’s never been a better time to become a Web Designer or Product Designer. To get a job in the field, however, you’ll need a great portfolio. But when you’re just starting to learn design fundamentals and play around with the technical tools of the trade like Sketch and Illustrator, how do you come up with ideas for projects? Enrolling in a flexible and super affordable UX Design bootcamp is one great way to get started quickly (follow that link to check out one of the best short-term UX bootcamps around!)

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

One of the most exciting things about design is that there are so many types of projects you could work on, from app design to website design. The most important thing early in your education is to try out lots of different types of projects to see what you like. Once you get a feel for the type of design you enjoy most, you’ll start to specialize and come up with your own concepts for projects that solve real problems. Employers love to see junior designers who have chosen a specialty and developed a deep expertise in that field, filling their portfolios with comprehensive projects backed up by user testing and solid research.

But like we said, early on you should experiment with lots of types of projects to see what you like best! In this article, we’re outlining a few simple UX/UI design portfolio projects you can work through to let you experiment with lots of different ideas quickly.

Ready? Let’s go!

 

The right process to follow for these projects

For all of these projects, start with research. Look at the designs on the websites and apps of similar companies to see how they’ve solved the same problem. Take notes and write down what you like and dislike about similar digital products.

Next, create user personas to understand who will be interacting with these designs and to help you visualize what their goals will be when they land on the page you’re designing. After that, brainstorm and sketch! Get out a pen and piece of paper and sketch out high level ideas for the design based on your research. Get as many ideas on paper as you can in 10 minutes.

Next, open a tool like Sketch (hint: you get 3 free months with our Portfolio Starter Kit) and create a wireframe of the page you’re designing. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can create a digital prototype in InVision to show what actually happens when a user interacts with each element of the wireframe.

Then show your designs to a friend and ask them to provide feedback as though they were a real user of the product. Once they’ve given you feedback on the design, incorporate it into your wireframe and then start creating the high fidelity version of the design. Add color, typography, copy, and make it look as slick as possible.

Be sure to research grids, color theory, and typography so you understand how to use these elements harmoniously to create a beautiful final product. Alright, now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get on to the projects!

 

Product Page for an Ecommerce Website

In this project, design the product detail page for a product on an ecommerce website. A product detail page is the page on an ecommerce website that describes the product you’re considering buying, showcases it visually, and lets you actually add it to your cart or purchase it directly. Depending on the product, a visitor might be able to customize specific features like size and color, read reviews, and view other technical specifications.

Start by coming up with a company. For this project, you can either choose a real company that sells products online or a fictional company you come up. If you choose a real company, think about industries you like and identify a company whose ecommerce conversion rates or overall user experience could be strengthened by a redesign. If you come up with a fictional company, think about industries you’re interested in that sell some form of product online and choose a product to sell. This could be anything from fashion to digital products.

Your final deliverable for this project should be a high-fidelity version of the product detail page for one product.

Portfolio Site Splash Page

In this project, you’ll design a static splash page for your personal portfolio site. A splash page is a non-scrollable landing page that visitors to a website see before they continue to the main content of the website. Splash pages are generally used to quickly introduce and/or promote an organization, product, or individual. Think of it like a visually pleasing greeting card that gives visitors a quick overview of who you are and entices them to learn more.

Splash pages generally include a strong call to action and button to encourage visitors to continue on to the main website. If you don’t have enough projects to have a full portfolio site yet, a splash page can also serve as a great temporary landing page so you can start to establish an online presence while you work to build up your portfolio.

Start by reviewing your current portfolio site. And if you haven’t created a portfolio site yet, take some time to put together a list of the information you’ll want to include on your splash page. Generally, a strong splash page includes this information:

  • Your name and/or logo
  • A brief description of who you are and what you do
  • One or more Calls to Action enticing visitors to visit your full site
  • A beautiful background image or original graphic element
  • Social and/or email icons

 

Pricing Page for a SaaS Startup

For this project, you’ll design the pricing page for the website of a Saas (Software as a Service) startup. A pricing page generally includes detailed information about the price and features of different tiers of a company’s product. Most pricing pages generally include the following information:

  • Unique names for each plan
  • Pricing for each tier (including options for monthly and/or annual plans)
  • The main product features of each tier
  • Calls to action to learn more or sign up

For this project, you can either choose a real SaaS startup or a fictional startup you come up with on your own. Try to include at least 3 price tiers in your final design and choose one of the tiers as the “target tier” that you’ll try to convince people to purchase with your design.

 

Startup Landing Page

For this one, you’ll design an above-the-fold landing page for a startup’s website. A landing page is the first page that a visitor sees when arriving on a company’s website. Since first impressions are crucial online (and since most visitors will only spend a moment or two before deciding whether to invest additional time learning about a product), a strong landing is a crucial factor in a startup’s growth.

The page should include a short description of the product, a few main benefits or use cases, and a clear call to action to compel the visitor to continue learning more or to sign up immediately. If you choose a real company, think about industries you like and identify a company whose conversion rate could be improved by a more effective landing page.

 

Mobile App Homepage

For this project, you’ll design the home screen of a mobile app of your choosing. For this project, you’ll choose an app and redesign the first screen you land on after logging in or signing up. The home screen of most mobile apps serves as an informational landing page or dashboard that showcases relevant information to a user depending on the function of the app

Think about the experience of a user just landing on a client’s app for the first time. How do you convey the necessary information simply and effectively while also clearly showing them the different options they have to navigate to other parts of the app? Get experimental with the structure for your page!

 

Conclusion

You can spend as long as you want on these projects, but we’d suggest limiting yourself to a couple of hours in order to get used to the types of constraints you’ll likely encounter in a full-time job. Most of all, have fun with it! Use these projects to experiment with different ideas, layouts, and graphic elements. If you’re happy with the final design, you can develop it into a more comprehensive portfolio piece using the projects in our Portfolio Starter Kit, but your initial focus when working on these mini projects should be on testing and experimentation.

Want more help coming up with ideas for detailed projects and then building them up into fully-formed portfolio projects? Consider our short-term Build Your Portfolio program where you’ll work with a mentor over a few weeks to create an amazing portfolio for yourself!

And if you want a more detailed step-by-step guide to help you work through projects like this, our Portfolio Starter Kit includes more detailed versions of the projects in this article as well as 30+ more projects and tons of resources to help you create an amazing portfolio!

Learn UX Design with Our New Partner

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already started learning design skills online. There are a ton of amazing of ways to learn design online, and our goal at RookieUp isn’t to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we want to pick up where most online courses end, by helping you build an amazing portfolio of detailed design projects that will land you your dream job in the creative industry.

At the same time, we know that design education is an ongoing process and when you’re spending so much time building up your portfolio, it can be hard to make time to continue your education and find new sources of inspiration and learning.

So to help make things a bit easier as you deepen your knowledge of design fundamentals and principles, we’re excited to announce our new partnership with the Interaction Design Foundation, a global independent nonprofit initiative with one goal: to raise the level of design education through an incredible curriculum of UX Design courses and an amazing community of global designers.

Every week, Interaction Design Foundation publishes new articles, community discussions, and courses to help spread design education to an ever-growing audience of aspiring creatives around the world. We’ve spent the past few weeks going through some of their courses and are constantly amazed by the sheer quality and volume of content they’re been able to create and distribute at such low prices (and as a RookieUp student, you get 3 free months of access to all of their courses!).

If you’re curious about the type of content they have for new designers, check out their Become A UX Designer from Scratch and Get Your First Job as a UX Designer courses.

 

To give you a bit more info about their organization, we asked a few questions to Mads Soegaard, their Editor-In-Chief, about their mission and how they create their amazing curriculum.

 

How do you approach creating your courses?

The majority of content on our platform is completely free, with a quality superior to that seen in some of the best publishing houses in the world. We have contributing authors like Clayton Christensen (invented the term “disruptive innovation” and serves as a senior advisor to the White House) and Don Norman (invented the term “User Experience”).

For one course, we flew to Germany and spent several days recording a world-renowned German professor, Marc Hassenzahl, in order to create a completely free textbook on User Experience. All the videos are professionally edited and are completely free to watch.

We also flew to Cambridge University with a film crew, persuaded a museum let us film after closing hours, and had professional editors compress it to 2 short videos.

 

How large is your community across the globe?

We’re also proud of the fact that we currently have 471 Local Groups in 84 countries. The IDF Local Group Initiative has the goal of educating, stimulating and inspiring the global design community through vibrant local groups all over the world where people frequently meet up and have quality interactions. At these meetings, both members and non-members can meet up and smile, laugh, learn and advance their careers. A global movement to advocate great design and what great design can do for humankind. Nothing less.

 

How does your curriculum work?

The primary value added for members is unlimited free access to top quality courses in the field of UX design. Courses are self-paced so you can continue your day job while learning in your spare time, and receive industry recognized certificates on successful completion of courses.

There are instructors for every course to clear up any concerns, and members can learn with and from hundreds of peers across the globe. We encourage the community learning aspect as it’s a way to meet future friends, collaborators, and employers on.

Our courses combine both text and video based lessons, and are full of both case-studies for example-based learning, and interesting theory for research-based learning.

 

By now, hopefully you’re convinced that the Interaction Design Foundation is an amazing resource for you as you take steps to launch your UX career. And remember — RookieUp students get 3 months for free! So what are you waiting for? Go check out their courses and see how IDF can help you launch your UX career.

Launching Your Design Career with a RookieUp Bootcamp

We launched our Career Bootcamps a few months ago with the goal of creating a new kind of bootcamp for aspiring designers. Our goal was to create a flexible program that is relevant for anyone trying to launch a creative career, from someone just starting to learn the fundamentals to a designer who has been working in the field for years and is ready to take the next step in their career.

While most existing bootcamps are great (we love any company trying to make design education better!), they are generally prohibitively expensive and assume that everyone enrolling is starting at the same experience level. Our bootcamps are entire flexible based on each student’s specific goals. We pair everyone with a mentor experienced in the types of industries and products the student wants to focus on, and their mentor helps them come up with projects that match their industry interests and career goals.

We spoke with Juliana, a UX/UI designer and one of the first graduates of our Career Bootcamps, to chat about her career goals and hear about her experience with our new bootcamp.

Take it away, Juliana!

 

What’s your career background and how long have you been studying UX/UI Design?

I am a UX/UI designer with a background in teaching. I have enjoyed exploring many different online courses to become a better designer. 

 

Why did you decide to try the RookieUp bootcamp?

I decided to pursue the RookieUp Bootcamp to push my UI skills to the next level. Having chatted with excellent mentors at RookieUp previously, I was confident that it would be a great experience. I also appreciated that I could customize the program based upon the goal to improve my UI skills. 

 

How was the RookieUp bootcamp experience?

I worked on two projects. The first was to redesign the website for Racine Arts Council, a nonprofit RookieUp connected me with.

Next, I redesigned the UI for an app concept called UpForIt.

I worked with Rich Armstrong as a mentor. He was a pleasure to work with and his suggestions were always spot on. I am happy to have added these projects to my portfolio. 

The bootcamp was a great experience!

 

 

We’d love to help you achieve your creative goals, whether you know exactly what kind of career you want to build or want to work with an experienced mentor to figure out what type of design career is best for you. Whatever your goals, our Career Bootcamps can help you achieve them. And if you’d rather build your portfolio and launch your career on your own, our Portfolio Starter Kit is the perfect place to start!

 

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Take the next step in your design career.

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Portfolio mistakes that new freelance designers make

The difference between seasoned designers and new designers is rarely their skillsets. Generally, new designers know how to use the tools the same way as someone who has been designing for twenty years.

However, new designers tend to make certain mistakes that an experienced designer wouldn’t make. Today I am going to talk to you about 4 common areas new designers can often fall short in, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes!

Not Presenting Your Ideas Properly

Often times clients come to designers with an idea in their head of what they’d like their designs to look like. As a designer, it can be frustrating to have a nitpicky client who is trying to dictate your designs, but as a designer it is also your job to manage the client as well as their expectations. Presenting your ideas to your client can truly make or break a project.

If done correctly, your client will understand why you made certain design decisions and won’t try to take control over the project. However, if done incorrectly, your client won’t understand the process or reasoning behind your design decisions and you could end up needing to head back to the drawing board. When presenting your ideas to your client, it’s always best to provide them with some sort of mock-up for their designs so they are able to see how their designs will look in a real life situation. If possible, sit down with your client 1-on-1 to explain your design process (over Skype, Zoom, or even in person) or provide them with a PDF that explains how your ideas fit with their goals.

You will want to explain why you chose certain fonts, colors and design elements to bring their ideas to life. For example, below is a sample of what I sent a client to explain my thought-process behind the tri-color color palette I had chosen for them. You can see how I have briefly explained why I chose the colors and how it relates back to their vision.

Not Having A Client Process In Place

Your client process should start as soon as a prospect reaches out to you and inquires about your work. It’s a good idea to have a detailed PDF of some sort that you can send any prospective clients who would like some more information about your services.

Having a meeting (or a virtual meeting) with a client before formalizing any actual contracts is also a great idea. During this meeting you should have a list of questions that can help you determine what exactly the client is looking for and whether or not you will be a good fit for one another.

Having client questionnaires ready to go in your toolkit will help you streamline your client process so you can spend more time on the designs and less time going back and forth with your client.

Going With The Trends

There is nothing wrong with knowing what’s trending and what’s not, but when you’re creating designs such as logos and other brand collateral, you want to make sure you aren’t falling into the trap of creating something only because it’s currently “in”. Branding elements should be timeless. Just like fashion, graphic design style evolves and changes over time. One year we might see soft pastels be very popular, whereas the next year big bold colors are in.

If you are creating your designs based upon what is in style, your designs aren’t going to last more than a couple of years. You do, however, want to develop your own personal style that will remain constant amongst the trends. Websites like Dribble, Behance and Pinterest are great places to find inspiration and start carving out your own unique style.

Not Knowing The Basics Of Web Design

If you thought that HTML and CSS were just for web designers, you might want to think again. While HTML, CSS and various programming languages are definitely skills that are a must for a web designer, it’s also really important for graphic designers to know the basics of web design.

But if you focus on graphic design, why should you need to know anything about web design?

As you probably already know, web and graphic design work very closely. Often times a graphic designer will design a website and a web designer will then bring that website to life by developing it. The complaint that I often come across from web designers in regards to graphic designers is that their designs don’t actually take certain things like user experience into consideration, or whether or not the website will be able to be built within the client’s budget.

If you don’t know the basics of web design, you are going to leave web designers frustrated when you pass off your designs to them. Plus, knowing web design is a great skills to have! Free websites like Codecademy can help you begin to understand front-end coding in an easy and interactive way!

7 Projects You Should Include In Your First UX Portfolio

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

As an aspiring UX designer, your portfolio is the most important asset you have in your job hunt. A well-researched, focused, and comprehensive portfolio can help to show employers your unique perspective as well as your deep expertise in a particular area. Taking a short-term and affordable UX Design Bootcamp is a great way to quickly learn the fundamentals and start building an amazing portfolio, but if you’re just starting to learn User Experience and User Interface design, you might be wondering what sorts of projects you should be working on to get a job as a junior UX or UI designer. Luckily, we chatted with tons of UX recruiters and designers over the past few months to ask that exact question and to hear their tips for building a UX portfolio full of amazing projects that truly stand out and showcase your abilities. In this article we’re going to outline the different types of UX/UI projects you might be working on in your your career. By the end of the article, you’ll understand the types of projects employers might expect to see in your portfolio and understand how each type of project can convey to recruiters that you understand the value of each project type from a business and user perspective.

Follow process and always consider the user

Before we dive into the 7 projects you should consider working on, we want to make a quick point of emphasizing how important it is to follow process when working on UX projects. Every employer and recruiter we talked to told us the number one thing that makes them pass on a portfolio is a lack of explanation or context. Many young designers make the mistake of diving straight into Sketch or another wireframing or prototyping tool before conducting necessary research. This is a bad idea! Employers want to see a portfolio site that explains why you made the decisions you made rather than just seeing the final deliverables mocked onto a desktop or phone. If you’re studying Visual Design, your final portfolio might be a bit more abstract, with designs based on your moodboarding, ideating, and sketching rather than deep industry research and usability testing. However, as a UX designer, it is crucial to base all of your design decisions on research and to constantly be iterating based on user feedback and usability testing. While a branding campaign or icon design project might be difficult to tie back to specific results, all of your UX/UI work will likely be directly tied to specific KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that your client or employer will use to determine whether the designs are successful at achieving their goal. So be sure to research your industry and client prior to starting any projects and then create personas and use cases so you understand how users will be interacting with your designs. And once you create an initial prototype, review your designs with users (this can be friends or mentors), watching how they interact with it and iterating accordingly.

The 7 projects every aspiring UX designer should work on

Here are the 7 types of UX projects that you’ll likely experience at some point in your career. We’d suggest trying out one or two projects in each category so you can at least be familiar with the process for creating each and also get the chance to see whether there is any particular part of the UX world that you’re especially passionate about.

Digital Publication or Blog

This might be a UX project type that you’d normally skip over, but multiple employers told us that being able to craft a unique digital blog or content site is a great skill to possess. While you might think that the availability of thousands of DIY blog templates available on platforms like WordPress and Squarespace makes the need to design a beautiful blog from scratch a thing of the past, this might make a case for the importance of this type of design work. Companies are putting more and more money into content marketing (creating owned written content that is used as a lead gen tool for acquiring inbound traffic) and most content marketing is tied directly to a business’s marketing budget and growth. Being able to design a unique blog that optimizes for lead capture and is beautiful enough to convince visitors to come back over and over again is a great skill to be able to promote in interviews! For this project, we’d suggest designing a homepage, category page, and article page. Your final deliverables should include sketches, wireframes, and a working hi-fi prototype of the final site including a basic Style Guide.

Ecommerce Website

If you’re interested in working in an industry that focuses on selling products (physical or digital), it’s probably a good idea to have some experience designing ecommerce sites. For an ecommerce project, you should focus primarily on maximizing conversion rate for visitors to the website, with a product search page that makes filtering and searching simple and intuitive, as well as a product detail page that makes it easy for visitors to gather information about the product and purchase it. While metrics are a key focus of any good ecommerce site, you should also try to create a compelling and unique visual look for the site to differentiate it from the millions of other ecommerce sites on the web. For this project, you should choose a client in an industry you like (you can either make up a fictional client that sells a product you’re passionate about or choose a client whose ecommerce site you think could benefit from a redesign) and design the Product Search, Product Detail, and Checkout pages for this client.

Lead Gen Landing Page

One of the simplest but most impactful UX projects you might work on for employers and clients is designing a simple landing page whose sole purpose is to convert visitors into signups or leads. This is generally done via signup forms, lead gen forms, or simple user registration widgets! Your job is to design a page that maximizes the number of visitors who submit their info (i.e. become leads) so the client’s sales team can follow up with them afterwards and try to convert them into paying customers. For this project, come up with a client in an industry you’re passionate about and think about the type of information you’d need to gather from a visitor to convert them to a lead. Also consider what information they’d be most interested in learning before being convinced to “convert”.

Mobile App Design

Mobile app design is one of the most popular UX/UI specialties and for good reason. People spend more time on their phone than on any other device, so being able to design simple and intuitive apps that delight users is a highly desirable skillset. For this project, think about problems you encounter in your everyday life and think about how a simple app product could solve those problems. This could be as simple as a productivity or reminder app or as complex as a social network. For this project, think about designing a simple onboarding flow, as well as the in-app screens and user dashboard or profile. Your final designs should include personas and use cases as well as sketches, wireframes, and a final prototype beautifully mocked up.

Email Drip Campaign

This is another one of those projects that might seem nonobvious or less-than-glamorous. However, it’s another project that can show employers that you understand their KPI’s and are able to convert those metrics into beautiful designs that help them grow their business. Emails are an important in the marketing and acquisition funnel of most companies and there’s a good chance you’ll have to design at least a few early in your career. For this project, you’ll identify a business client and design a series of 4 emails for them, designed to convert new subscribers or trialers into paying customers of their product. Come up with a product that these users have trialed and think about the flow of information they’d be receiving over the 4 email series, with a focus on moving them down the acquisition funnel.

Marketing Website

Similar to a lead gen page, a marketing website is a customer-facing site that a business or startup uses to promote and explain their product and to convert visitors into customers or trialers. For this project, come up with a client in an industry you care about. Think about how your design can showcase relevant information about the product and help them reduce their high drop off rate and help move visitors from the discovery phase (search engine, social media marketing) to the conversion phase on their marketing website. Research successful marketing websites to understand how brands optimize their marketing website for conversions.

Web App Design

Finally, we’d recommend working on a web app product. Similar to a mobile app, a web app is a digital product that users engage with via their computer. A few popular web apps are sites like Facebook, Gmail, or Trello. For this project, think about a problem that exists in your target industry that could be solved by a simple (or complex) app. Then design the signup flow, in-app screens, and dashboard for the app, presenting your final work as a comprehensive case study including sketches, wireframes, and a hi-fi prototype mocked onto a device.

What next?

Now that you know the types of projects employers want to see in UX/UI portfolios, jump into it! Try as many projects as you have time for and once you find yourself being drawn to a specific field of UX or UI Design, start to deepen your expertise in that area. Employers love to see subject matter experts who have experience across a variety of different types of work, so remember to keep practicing multiple types of work even if you decide to focus on just one. If you have an idea for a client or product you want to design, but aren’t sure how to get started or what process to follow, never fear! We developed our Portfolio Starter Kit and Career Bootcamps to teach you how to take your ideas and turn them into well-researched projects that follow the proper design process and will impress employers so you can stand out from the competition.

7 Visual Design Project Ideas For Your Design Portfolio

If you’re trying to become a Visual Designer, you probably already know that your portfolio is the most important tool in your arsenal as you get ready to apply to jobs or look for clients. But when you’re just starting to build up your portfolio, it can be difficult to know exactly what sorts of projects you should be including in your portfolio. And once you do come up with ideas for projects, how do you build them into comprehensive case studies that will impress any potential employers checking out your site?

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

We chatted with hiring managers across the creative industry to find out what sort of projects they’d like to see in the portfolios of new junior designers applying for jobs. Keep reading for more info about the exact projects that you should work on to build up your design skills and show that you are capable of executing all the types of design work you’d likely be working on as a junior designer. And for all of these projects, we’ve created step-by-step project guides that will help you build up detailed projects in each of these categories and craft an amazing portfolio.

One note – we’re recommending a variety of Visual Design projects to help you get experience building different types of design projects from scratch, but when you’re actually getting ready to apply to jobs, it’s generally a good idea to decide what area of design you’re most passionate about and focus most of your portfolio site on those types of projects. Employers want to know that you have a deep expertise in your chosen field!

Solve real problems with your projects

Before we dive into the specific types of projects you should be working on, it’s important to note that recruiters across the board told us that they want to see projects based on real problems that exist in the world rather than just seeing pretty visuals. They want to know that you can solve problems with your designs. Here are two ways to start solving real problems with your designs, even early in your career.

Find real clients

It might seem daunting to approach real clients early in your career, but even if you’re not being paid for the work, reaching out to local businesses and nonprofits offering your design services is an amazing way to build your skills and impress employers. It’s as simple as walking into local businesses asking if they need help with marketing campaigns or branding, or emailing nonprofits to ask if they need any design support. Employers want to know you can work within real world constraints, so this is a great way to show that you can incorporate constraints!

Come up with ideas for problems you want to solve

Even if you’re not doing “real client” projects, it’s important to ensure that all of your project ideas attempt to solve real problems that exist in a particular industry or field. So when you come up with high level project ideas (e.g. doing a branding project), spend some time thinking about the industries you want to work in. Then look at a few companies in those industries and see how their brand or business could be positively impacted by a redesign. You could even come up with your own business or brand from scratch based on a gap you think exists in your target industry, and design a project for them from scratch. As long as you are trying to solve real problems and test your designs against mentors and peers, you’ll be good to go.

Finally, be sure that instead of diving straight into Illustrator or Photoshop, you spend time following the proper design processes for each project – research the industry and problem, come up with personas, ideate and sketch, and validate your designs with someone else.

Alright, let’s dive into the 7 projects every aspiring designer should work on!

Personal Branding

When you’re getting ready to apply to jobs or reach out to clients, a strong personal brand can help make you more memorable, showcase your style and tone of work, and convince anyone looking at your portfolio site that you’re truly passionate about design outside of your 9-5 job. It also shows that you have an opinion or point of view about design and are willing to boldly attach that opinion to yourself for everyone to see!

Assume for a moment that you are an employer looking through hundreds of design portfolios every day, looking for the perfect candidate to add to your design team. You decide whether or not to pass on most portfolios within about 10 seconds of landing on their homepage. Your personal branding, just like any other strong design project in your portfolio, should follow a design process — the same process that you go through when completing a Branding and Identity project for any client. You need to spend time ideating about what you want your branding to say about you, sketching ideas, refining a few of them, and then choosing typography and a color palette that matches.

Branding and Logo Design

If you’re interested in branding design, then it’s a no-brainer that you’d want to include at least a few branding and identity projects in your portfolio. For this branding project, you should come up with a totally new company in an industry you’d like to work in, or find a company in that industry whose branding you think might be holding it back from greater success. You should go through the entire research → moodboard → ideation → sketching phase before diving into Illustrator. For your final project, include a new logo, typography, colors, and overall look and feel. You can present all of these deliverables in a Style Guide for the brand.

Iconography

Being able to develop iconography with a consistent look and feel is an important skill for most designers to have. Even though there are tons of incredible icon services out there, like Noun Project, you should feel comfortable developing your own icons from scratch if you want to work on the design team for a larger company (or even a smaller studio). For this project, focus on building out a full set of iconography for a digital product or website of your choosing.

Before you dive into research, you should decide where in the client’s product or website these icons will be used and what they’ll be used for. Are they going to be used to accompanying text and information or are they more navigational icons? Write down details about what types of icons you’re going to be designing and where they’ll show up in the product or website. This is a necessary step to take prior to conducting research or sketching.

Marketing Campaign

Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will definitely be involved in at various stages of your career. For this project, come up with a theoretical product or find an existing product that you like and design a digital and print marketing campaign for the client. In your final deliverables, include 2 Facebook ads, 1 Instagram ad, one print poster (24×36”), 4 display banners (sized at 300×250, 300×600, 728×90, and 970×250), and one 4×6” postcard. Be sure to include copy and strong calls to action. For your final presentation, mock them onto relevant platforms.

Packaging Design

If you want to focus primarily on digital products, this project might not be for you. But if you’re interested in working at a company that sells physical products, being able to design packaging and a label for the products is a great way to stand out from the crowd. For this, you’ll help a client create compelling packaging that speaks to their brand identity while also informing consumers about relevant aspects of their products. Your final presentation should include dielines of your designs as well as the final label design in vector format. You can also include a style guide with things like color, typography, and overall look and feel.

Print Collateral

For this project, you’ll identify a client and develop a set of print collateral for their business, ranging from business cards to posters to postcards. Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients in a variety of print formats is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will likely be doing at some point in your Visual Design career. For the final deliverables, include on set of business cards (front and back), two print posters (24×36”), two 4×6” postcards, and one additional 4×4’ sign to be used in an outdoor marketing campaign.

Typographic Poster or Album Art

For this final project, you’ll be focusing on showing your ability to generate unique typographic layouts and improving your familiarity with typography in general. You can create a typographic poster for a film or cover for an album, with a strong emphasis on using typography and type lockup to create a mood and visual look. You should only use very minimal photography or graphic elements in your design. This project will focus on helping you become familiar with typography in design and is designed to show you the broad range of emotion that type can elicit. Recruiters love to see well-rounded designers, so even if you’re focus is on web design or product design, showing that you can use typography to create a more emotional response in viewers is incredibly important!

What next?

Working on those 7 projects will give you amazing exposure to the 7 types of projects that recruiters have told us they’d want to see in most junior portfolios. You don’t need to include all of these in your portfolio (in fact, you probably shouldn’t), but working on these projects should help you broaden your design skills and identify the areas of Visual Design you want to focus on in your career. From there, you can start to specialize and deepen your skillsets in one or two of these areas. If you want a more comprehensive step-by-step guide to building out each of these projects, check out our Portfolio Starter Kit, and if you’d like to build up your portfolio with a mentor, check out our Career Bootcamps!

Introducing the RookieUp Career Bootcamps

Today we’re launching four new products on RookieUp to help solve a lot of the problems that aspiring creatives face as they get ready to launch their careers in an increasingly competitive job market. Our new products, the Career Bootcamps and the Portfolio Starter Kit, are based on feedback we’ve gathered from hundreds of people on both sides of the job field — both the new designers applying for jobs as well as the recruiters and managers hiring them.

We started RookieUp earlier this year to create a simple and accessible way for anyone, regardless of background, location, or personal connections, to easily connect with high quality professionals in creative fields and get feedback and advice in unstructured video-based mentor sessions. Our mission from the start was to help aspiring creatives improve their skills and launch their dream careers, but we weren’t quite sure what form that would ultimately take. But after being live for a few months, we started to see themes in the types of problems that most aspiring designers were facing, problems that no current platforms were solving.

Here are some of the recurring trends we’ve seen…

 

From mentor sessions

While we expected that a majority of mentees would want to focus on asking technical and conceptual questions to their mentors, it quickly became apparent that an overwhelming majority wanted to discuss how to improve their portfolios and land jobs in their field. Most mentees seemed comfortable with their ability to learn creative fundamentals and technical skills from other services, and wanted to work with mentors to build better portfolios so they could actually land jobs in the field.

The takeaway here is that while there are hundreds of amazing ways to learn design skills online, most aspiring designers still feel like they need significant help building up their portfolios and understanding how to position themselves to land jobs (even after finishing intensive bootcamps or online programs).

 

From employers

We started talking with recruiters and employers in the creative industry a few months ago to understand their perspective on the current design job market. The main feedback has generally fallen into two categories. First, there are a lot of junior designers entering the job market. A lot. With the surge of new bootcamps and online courses teaching design, it’s easier than ever to learn basic design skills, which has resulted in thousands of new designers applying for jobs every month.

The second theme is that many of the people applying for these jobs have nearly identical portfolios. Online courses and bootcamps assign the same cookie-cutter projects to every student, leading to thousands of portfolios filled with the same projects for the same theoretical clients. Projects like this make sense in the context of a fast-paced curriculum because they let students practice basic concepts and skills quickly, week after week. However, they don’t focus on the types of comprehensive problem-focused projects that young designers will actually be working on in full-time roles, and they completely ignore each student’s actual industry and role interests.

The takeaway here is that most current design courses largely ignore the importance of helping students work on comprehensive projects that are customized to their specific industry and role interests in favor of the scalability of assigning one-size-fits all projects. Simple projects that focus on individual concepts are a great way to learn the basics, but they aren’t enough to stand out to employers. But how can students learn the right design process they need to work through to create detailed projects when they’ve never been taught?

 

The Problem

The main problem has become pretty clear — while there are hundreds of platforms to learn creative skills, creative education generally stops short of helping students achieve their real end goals: starting a career in the creative industry. Even bootcamps that promote career placement opportunities generally stop helping students within a few weeks of graduating. Some graduates might land jobs quickly, but many are left wondering what they should do next. Those students then need to spend months on their own coming up with new projects and repositioning themselves to actually be attractive to employers. Even more so, programs that do offer career help only offer it to people going through their entire program. Once someone has already learned the basics of design and graduated, they’re on their own.

In a world where there are so many amazing ways to learn design, why, we wondered, were there no programs or schools that focused primarily on helping aspiring designers launch their careers after they’d already learned the basics. Why wasn’t there a program focused on helping new designers build up comprehensive portfolios, hone their skills, and learn to think like real designers?

The solution

So we built a product to help solve that problem. We’ve taken feedback from hundreds of people, spoken with recruiters across the creative world, and developed an affordable solution we think will be incredibly helpful to anyone looking to take the first step in their creative careers.

The Career Bootcamps

Our three new Career Bootcamps are 4-6 week programs where you’ll be paired with a mentor based on your specific career goals and then work with them to take major steps towards your career goals, whatever they may be. They’re built for people who have already started learning design, whether through a bootcamp, online course, or self-studying. The three bootcamps are…

  • The Build Your Portfolio Bootcamp is 4 weeks long and is focused on helping you create your first in-depth portfolio projects and hone your portfolio site.
  • The Get A Design Job Bootcamp is 6 weeks long and focuses on helping you build comprehensive portfolio projects, polish your portfolio site, practice your interviewing skills, perfect your resume and elevator pitch, and actually apply to jobs!
  • The Become A Freelancer Bootcamp is also 6 weeks long, and focuses on the same comprehensive portfolio projects in addition to helping you take major steps towards launching your freelancing career, as well as finding and building long-term relationships with clients.

At the core of our new bootcamps are projects – you’ll choose a series of projects and then work on them over the first four weeks of the bootcamp, getting multiple rounds of written feedback from your mentor each week and then finishing each week with a video session to go over the projects in more detail and discuss next steps.

As we were starting to outline the bootcamps, we realized that most online design briefs and project assignments were too generic and not particularly useful for someone just getting started in their career. If you’re just getting started, how do you know what design process to follow for a particular project, what deliverables you should include in the final designs, how to conduct research, and even how you should showcase the final product on your portfolio site? So we built the RookieUp Project Framework, the most comprehensive project framework you’ll find anywhere, that guides you step-by-step through the entire process of building up comprehensive portfolio projects while still allowing you to come up with clients, products, and problems that match your unique interests. Every student gets access to our 30+ Frameworks, which include the exact types of projects, ranging from Branding + Identity to App Design, that hiring managers want to see in junior design portfolios (trust us, we asked them)!

We’ll also have monthly Real Client briefs that students can work on with actual nonprofits and startups, in addition to frameworks for everything from starting your own side project to crafting your personal branding. We recognize that working under constraints and working on real world work are important skills to possess, so we’re doing everything we can to provide projects based on real clients, real problems, and real student interests.

In addition, the bootcamps provide tons of exclusive resources we’ve created to help students find jobs, build their portfolios, find clients, and more! We’ve also curated hundreds of hours of curriculum from the best sources of the web to help students continue their education even as they work to build up amazing portfolios, as well as exclusive perks to design tools like Sketch, Balsamiq, AND CO, Skillshare, and more.

For people who want our portfolio resources but don’t need the structured mentorship, we’re launching a fourth new product called the the Portfolio Starter Kit. It includes all the resources and frameworks from the Career Bootcamps (in addition to 25% off RookieUp mentor sessions), just without the mentorship. We know that many people like to work through things at their own pace, so we made sure to build an offering suited particularly for them. And the Starter Kit includes 25% off traditional RookieUp mentor sessions, so that mentorship is accessible even outside of the Bootcamps.

We’re so excited to release these new offerings into the world to help aspiring designers continue to improve their skills after they’ve already learned the basics. We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, thoughts, or feedback on our new products.