Forget shapeshifting and telekinesis, if design's your trade there’s a different array of super skills you’ll want in your possession. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled them all here. We’ll dispense with the easy ones like talent and typography. Any good designer worth their salt has them on lockdown already. Instead, here are ten not-so-secret powers you can use to take your designer status to superhero levels.
First and foremost, great design begins with a light bulb moment. Whether it’s a brand identity, a photo assignment, or a wedding website, it makes good sense to start with an idea. This is the overarching theme or aesthetic thought that will be your guiding hand throughout the project. Good designers treat the Great White Bull that is the blank page as a source of inspiration not intimidation. To come up with a unique idea, flip things on their head and look at them differently. Take something old and reconfigure it. Be anything but obvious. If you don’t have the creativity to crack the idea, you’re at a disadvantage before you even open Photoshop.
2. Endless Curiosity
Nothing exists in a vacuum, including design. In order to conjure up and craft something new, it’s imperative to know the lie of the land first. Train your brainstorming muscles by consuming creativity in all its forms. Like museums, art galleries, cinema, people, and the great outdoors. Mother Nature’s use of the golden ratio rivals anything ever designed by Yves Béhar. Your aim should be to soak up artistic influence like a sponge. Subscribe to a billion blogs. Follow your favorite creators on Instagram. And read the latest design books, sure, but remember they’re annuals not manuals. To take it even further, learn how to be ahead of the ever-accelerating design trend curve. Any designer can know what’s come before, but the best have a Minority Report style precognition for what’s about to break next.
3. Knowing The Code
It’s not necessary for every designer to know how to whip up an app prototype in a weekend, but it doesn’t hurt either. Today, nobody can practice their trade without at least a tiny bit of tech know-how. Dig around in the CSS of your favorite sites. Sign up for the latest stuff that comes out of Silicon Valley. Record a Brock Davis inspired vine. Whatever you do, don't feel like you need to build anything from scratch, as there’s enough pre-built lego blocks of tech wizardry out there for anyone to plug together their idea. Just don’t stick your head in the sand, there’s nothing cool happening down there.
4. Project Management
To get it done, you need more than just photoshop skill, you need process savvy. Good design isn’t just about balancing your color scheme, but your workload too. Be über-organized with your files and folders. Keep good accounting records. Eat well and hitting the gym to clear your mental cache. If your workflow is out of whack, it won’t just hurt your bottom line, it’ll hurt your finished product also.
Good designers know how and when to make good decisions. Whether it’s a client that wants your opinion on a color, or whether it’s your own indecisive brain that’s wavering on which typeface size to use – the ability to pick a path in the road and stick by it with conviction can’t really be overrated. Listen to the options like a zen master, and then decide like a dictator.
6. The Hustle...
Successful designers get there by working at it. They get into the flow and power through problems like Thor through solid rock. And then like Wolverine, their egos have a special kind of regenerative healing power that allows them to keep going back to the creative well as many times as necessary.
7. ...and The Craft.
The web has directories full of designers that can make something look shiny. But expert ones take the time to make sure every last detail is polished. It’s about getting the favicon to match the front page. It’s about ensuring the fallback font looks as good as the hero typeface. And it’s about making sure the headline’s ‘A’ is kerned in snugly with the ‘W’ next door. Most designers do 99% of what needs to be done. Surpass them to superhero level by doing the other 1%.
8. Super Storytelling
In two ways, good designers craft a narrative. Firstly, they consider the flow of their idea and how their audience will interpret it at every brand touchpoint. This goes for business cards to presentation slides to coffee mug copy. They consider how their individual piece of design sits in their overall client’s puzzle. Secondly, when it comes to selling the idea, they have an almost Professor X-like ability to powerfully persuade clients to buy into their idea.
9. A Sharpened Toolkit
A tradesman is only as good as his equipment. Same goes for designers. But instead of hammers and nails think apps and graphic tablets . The best designers constantly refine the gear at their fingertips to make sure they’re operating like the finely tuned human+technology design hybrid they are. Upgrade your RAM. Download the latest updates. Memorise the latest keyboard shortcuts. Keep the cords of your favorite noise-cancelling headphones carefully coiled. Stock up on your favorite coffee. And keep your senses finely honed by practicing your design skills like a ninja every other day.
10. Killer Assets
Finally, good design comes from having a power-packed arsenal of resources just a click away. Super hero designers have a knack for reaching into the toolkit and pulling out whatever is right for the job. Whenever it's needed. A full range of finely-crafted design artillery at your disposal strengthen your ability to tackle a wide array of design jobs. And if you're looking to beef up your arsenal, Creative Market has all the fonts, templates, photos and graphics you need.
There it is. A comprehensive list of superhero-esque design skills. What would you add to the list? What do you wish you had? Let us know in the comments.
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