How To Improve Design Skills For 2021

November 2020 · 8 min read

Balancing creative desires with marketable skills can be challenging. But it’s ultimately rewarding as your career advances.

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Staying up to date on in-demand design skills can be a daunting task. It's challenging to balance creative desires and marketable skills. More than anything, learning new skills advances your career and keeps you from being stuck in dead-end jobs where we do the same thing for multiple years.

Diversifying your skillset will keep hiring managers interested in your resume and increase your chances of landing an interview. The design industry is constantly changing, making it impossible to understate the value of upskilling.

How to Get Started

Too often, we get caught up in the minutiae of learning a new skill. "Does it fit into my schedule, should I pay, can I learn on my own, or will I waste my time learning the wrong skill?" are all valid questions when starting the journey to learn new skills. While all of these questions are worth pondering, they are ultimately obstacles in our path. Waiting for a class with the right instructor at the most convenient time only slows our progress to learning a new skill.

Just get started.

Learning a new skill offers more benefits than adding a new line to your resume. It enhances all of your work.

Learn A New Language

There is no set order to learn new coding languages. If you've mastered HTML and CSS, it's time to move on to JavaScript or Python to round out your front-end design skills to create expansive and interactive websites. Focus on the one you want to learn. Despite what people may tell you, there is no right answer.

Understanding more coding languages will help you incorporate more features into your website and create an easier experience for developers when they receive your design.

Don't Worry About How Long It Takes to Learn

As a designer, you have to stay up with current trends. In-demand skills don't fade in and out like fashion trends. Photoshop and HTML have been around for ages, and they aren't going anywhere. Taking the time to invest in learning is a worthwhile cause for professional development. It doesn't matter if you are learning one night a week using a self-paced module or learning brand new skills at a top web design coding bootcamp. The skills you take the time to learn and perfect will serve you for a long time.

Learn What You Want to Learn

There is no sense in learning a skill if you can't imagine yourself doing it for 15-20 percent of your job. Learn the skills you want to spend more of your time doing. Or, better yet, learn a design skill you think you will find fun and use for a hobby or side gig. You can create additional revenue streams by selling your graphic design work as t-shirts or prints.

Look At Requirements for Dream Design Jobs

If you are wondering what skill to learn, hop on a job board and see the requirements for your dream position at a top company. Companies typically list the skills they are looking for in their designers. Use this list to create a learning map for yourself. You know now the skills you need to land your dream job. Now all you need to do is learn them.

You can take this a step further by finding current designers on LinkedIn and seeing what skills they have. Or check out their portfolio to get inspired for your next project. This type of hands-on research will give you a better insight into the desired skills by top companies rather than arbitrary guesses at what skills you want to learn.

Don't Be Intimidated by Design Skills That Sound Hard

Skills growing in popularity—like animation, illustration, and graphic design—sound difficult or that they require an “artistic talent”. Praising a designer for their “eye” or talent belittles all the hard work they put. You don't need talent to be a great designer if you work hard. Motivation and dedication are undervalued skills that people at the top of their design fields don't get recognized for enough.

Skills that sound hard increase the satisfaction of learning them. Learning something easy doesn't provide a challenge or make us grow as a person. Learning difficult skills will take your resume to the next level.

Look Outside of Your Area of Expertise

One way to build your skillset is to look outside of your current role but within the same industry. For example, a web designer's work isn't completely different from a mobile designer's work. Yes, the underlying languages and interfaces are different, but the prerequisite knowledge and previous experience designing websites will transfer to developing an app.

Being able to code both websites and apps is a great skill for freelancers or smaller companies. People unfamiliar with the world of design often don't think there is a distinction between mobile apps and website, or UI vs. UX. Many entrepreneurs confuse designers and developers as the same skills or will ask them to complete tasks outside of their skillset.

User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are skills that build upon each other. While UI/UX designers are often lumped together, their work is different. Learning UI skills if you are a UX designer, and vice-versa, can help you earn promotions, get more consistent work, and improve the quality of your work to help out your design teammates since you understand more of their role.

Conclusion: Teach Other People Your Design Knowledge

One way to understand your knowledge and application of your design tools is to teach other people. When teaching a subject, you create new connections and understand the topic a bit more yourself. Even the most experienced designer will learn new things when teaching others. You can even become a teacher at the top online coding bootcamps to contribute to the design industry.

Upskilling Will Keep Your Resume Relevant

Pursuing new design skills will improve your work and grant you access to more opportunities. There isn't one right path to upskilling. What's important is that you start, learn something you enjoy, and incorporate into your current skill set.