The Envato Tuts+ Design and Illustration community range in experience, from those just starting out to those in college or university to those who are freelance/full-time designers.
From your experience, what was the one piece of advice you’d give your younger self, to help you in your design journey? No matter what level of skill you have right now, there’s always that one thing you wish you’d been told at square one.
Envato Tuts+ Design & Illustration Team
When asked this question, the Envato Tuts+ Instructors had a lot of advice for their younger selves:
Skill will not come overnight, no matter how hard you try. Learning takes time, and there are certain phases of it you cannot skip. This isn’t a race—don’t try to outrun everyone else, and instead enjoy the journey of becoming slightly better every day!
Always try and challenge yourself with each new personal project you do, whether that be a new style or a new tool. You might succeed or you might fail… but you’ll always learn something!
Surround yourself with people who believe in you more than you do.
Value your own time.
I made the mistake of undervaluing my own time for way, way, way too long!
Take time to really study other people’s work, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some of those you look up to may be more approachable than you think, and you can learn a great deal from their experience and methods of working.
Learn the basics. Develop appreciation for classic techniques and fundamental skills. Understanding the rules and choosing to intentionally break them looks a lot different than being ignorant of them or ignoring them out of convenience. Don’t rely on the technology, use it as a tool not a crutch.
Constructive criticism on your artwork hits hard but well: Take it lightly, see things in a different light and get encouraged to improve your skills. Mom, or the neighborhood kids, offer the best visual perspective, and they are the most honest.
Stop waiting for people to get their act together. Don’t let others hold you back, because you missed out on some amazing opportunities. Don’t be so afraid of taking chances by yourself, and stop being so “nice”. You’ll be constantly walked on, and passed over for things because you weren’t the loudest “squeaking” wheel.
Don’t try to learn everything by yourself, believe in more experienced ones and learn from them.
I would tell my younger self to not worry too much about choosing the ‘right’ subjects at school and college. I stumbled into a design career from all sorts of weird and wonderful twists of fate, via an anthropology degree, jobs in media and museums, until I finally realised that design was the industry for me! Don’t stress about going down conventional design training routes; your varied resume will put you in good stead for thinking about projects creatively and ultimately for finding your niche in the design world.
Create your art in the way that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
Never undervalue yourself out of fear of losing a job. Take the time to research proper pricing for a job before sending the client an estimate. If they don’t want to pay that amount, they have no respect for what you do and you really don’t want to work with them. If they would like to but can’t (for instance if they’re a charity) and it’s a job you’d like to do, negotiate something that works for you both—but always after explicitly stating the actual value of the work. And always always ALWAYS get a non-refundable deposit before even speaking an idea out loud.
Practice every single day. If you’re afraid of big and complicated projects, then start with baby steps. Find at least 10-20 minutes a day to make one small picture or one simple design or one rough sketch. Learn new techniques, try a different style and just don’t stop drawing, no matter what. Hard work—that is what makes you a good illustrator or designer.
What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?
We want you to contribute to this with your own advice to give your younger self. What was that one thing you wish you had learnt?
Share your advice and then leave a link to your portfolio or social media account—you may be featured in a future Envato Tuts+ article!