As a designer, you need to do your best to set yourself apart from your competition. Learning new skills and/or software is one way to do so. Not only will your resume reflect this, but your portfolio will too. The following are what I believe to be some of the benefits of going above and beyond.
Stand out among the crowd
As creatives, we work in an oversaturated industry. Due in part to the widespread availability of online training, more talented designers are breaking into the industry. With that over saturation comes stiff competition for the same .
Put yourselves in the shoes of a hiring manager or Creative Director. You’re looking at two finalists for a position you need to fill. Both portfolios are strong, both candidates have an equal amount of job experience. The difference may be that one candidate knows a skill or software that goes above and beyond the job requirements. Who do you think will get hired?
Sometimes, it’s not enough to just know Photoshop and Illustrator. Knowing how to use an extra application, or possessing other skills can help you stand out among the crowd.
Create new opportunities for yourself
When I was first introduced to Photoshop by my father back in the late 90’s, I was immediately hooked. I loved drawing already and now, I could draw on the computer. Little did I know that shortly after that I would get my first job in the industry. During my Junior year in High School, I got a job doing website banners for one of those Dot Com businesses. It paid better than my old job stocking shelves at Walmart. I got to do what I loved — use Photoshop.
While at that job, my father encouraged me to learn Macromedia Flash. At the time, there were only a couple of tutorial sites online, one being FlashKit. I spent hours messing around with Flash. I did this until I got to the point that I was capable of building a website in the software. Midway through my senior year in High School, I landed a job at a small Web Design company that needed a Flash Designer.
Landing that job was due to me putting in the time and effort to learn a new skill — which at the time, few designers had. Several jobs that I have landed was because I possessed knowledge of software and skills that my competition did not.
Supplementation. Not the Protein powder kind
Fast forward several years. While my work has a long way to go, I feel that my Photoshop skills are strong. My Typography skills have improved over the past few years. I know that is never enough. I have been learning Cinema 4D and After Effects to further supplement my design skills. By learning Cinema 4D, it has allowed me to integrate even the most basic of renders into my work.
Look at the work of successful designers. You will notice that they don’t just know the basics. Most supplement their work with skills and knowledge of software that go above and beyond what the average designer have. This supplementation isn’t the only reason why they’re successful, but I believe that it contributes to it.
Make new connections
By learning new skills and software, you put yourself in a whole different environment to meet new people.
It was when I took a keen interest in Motion Graphics and 3D that I started opening myself up more. I began meeting new people who have helped me further develop my skills as a designer.
When you make these new connections, you open yourself up to new collaborations, possible job offers and referrals. You expose yourself to a whole different side of the design industry. These new connections may well lead you to the next big thing in your career.
Stay with, or even ahead of the pack
There was a time in my career where I felt that knowing Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign was enough. I became complacent with my knowledge of the tools. I was stunting my growth as a designer as well as cutting myself off from many potential career opportunities.
The more and more I looked at the work of other designers, the more I realized that I was falling behind the pack.
This reminded me a story that a former Creative Director told me about the early days of “Desktop Publishing”.
Thousands of Graphic Designers lost their jobs due to being unable to adapt to the PC and Desktop Publishing. They fell behind the pack.
What could they have done to keep up with the changing landscape of Graphic Design? You guessed it — learn the new skills and software that would soon change the face of the entire design industry forever.
Just like the Desktop Publishing revolution of the 80’s, we’ve seen such a dramatic change as recently as 2007 with the invention of the smartphone.
Designers and developers alike needed to learn new skills, new tools and new techniques to get on board with the advancing landscape of app design.
With so much new technology on the horizon, like VR for example, the design industry as a whole is in for yet another huge change.
We can’t always predict the next big thing, but we can be aware of our industries changing and prepare ourselves to change along with it by being willing and prepared to learn new skills.
That leads me to ask; what’s next? Will you fall behind the pack, or will you stay ahead of it?