What Skills do I Need?
We're gonna get into some of the nuts and bolts. What skills do I need? So we've learned all about what our field is, what it's not, what the demands are on the modern communication designer. We've learned most importantly of all how to think like a designer. Now it's just time to get into the nuts and bolts. So first we're gonna start with the tools that you need. We're gonna start with software skills. First is Photoshop. Photoshop I'm sure all of you guys have heard of has the power to edit images. But what you might not know is that Photoshop is pixel based, so it's often used to do digital design. Next is Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is vector based graphics program. And that's just a fancy way of saying instead of being pixel based, you can draw forms that are led by nodes and points. This means that you can scale it infinitely up or infinitely down without losing resolution. This is why you see logos being made in illustrator because maybe the application is super teeny ...
tiny like on a button, but maybe you need to put that Delta logo on the side of an airplane. Next, we're gonna talk about InDesign. Adobe InDesign is used for layouts. It's also used for sophisticated type setting and is not just used for layouts for prints such as a pamphlet, a book or a poster, it can also be used for e-Publications and interactive PDFs. Next, you need to know Adobe After Effects and this is used for motion graphics. The cool thing is, After Effects works with Photoshop and Illustrator. You can edit images in Photoshop. You can take your vector graphics from Illustrator and you can bring them into After Effects if you need to make things change or move over time. After Effects becomes also particularly powerful because it's all about timeframes and the element of storytelling. Next, is Sketch. This is a pretty new tool. It's only been really gaining popularity over the last few years, but it has transformed the digital design community. Sketch is a product for designing digital products. Next, now that you know the software skills, we're gonna talk about some of the more important life skills to both enter then grow and then thrive in our field. First, we've already talked about it's curiosity. It's having the courage and the energy and the willpower to ask yourself what if. It's about doubting the default like our favorite Welsh mathematician, Robert Recorde. It's about seeing something for the thousandth time and seeing it with fresh eyes. This is one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein. He says I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. I mean, that's a pretty bold statement for someone who is like a certified genius. I'm not even a genius, but I'm working as a communication designer. I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Because curiosity is the birthplace of ideas and his curiosity led him to groundbreaking research that changed the way we understand the universe, let alone a presidential ballet, the universe. So if Albert Einstein says curiosity matters, I take him at his word. Next is persistence. Like I said about Steve Jobs, he founded Apple at 21. He was a millionaire at and then he was kicked out of his own company at 30. He could have folded in his cards. This is what he said about this time in his life. He said, sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick, but don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. He was persistent. His persistence took him into the most creative period of his life. And this is a good moment to talk a little bit about self doubt versus project doubt, because I see the two things confused all the time. Self doubt is bad. That's when you tell yourself I can't do this. I'm not talented enough. Project doubt says, you know, maybe my project sucks now, but if I keep working at it I can get it where it needs to be. And when I talk with students, it makes me so sad when they're struggling with a project and they confuse self doubt and project doubt. It's so easy if you're kind of struggling through a project and you can't find the solution and people don't understand or you don't think it's beautiful enough, it's so easy to instead say I don't have what it takes. But the thing is, you do. You need to replace that self doubt with project doubt. So if your project is terrible, you know what, we have all been there. The best designers in the world have all been there. Take that as some inspiration like Steve Jobs and say it's bad now, but I can do something amazing and this is the only way to grow as a communication designer. And it's not just our field. This just applies to our lives. This is something I also need to remind myself over and over again. Next is receptiveness to feedback and this is so important because communication design is rooted in communication. That's why we call it communication design. Communication design has to communicate clearly, but the only way that you know that it communicates clearly is when you get actual feedback about your work. That's why we have critiques. And this is something my colleague told me that just killed me. And she said, be grateful for every time that someone put aside their own desire to be liked in order to make you better because if you don't, what you are now is the best you will ever be. And that would be sad. That would be so sad, right? It's so easy when we receive criticism on our project. Like I remember working on a project, staying up all night, putting it up to show my teachers when I was in school and it was just torn apart and I was devastated and your natural reaction is to say they don't understand my creative vision or they don't really get what I'm trying to say. And that's such a horrible way to approach it because you'll never grow. And even if I dropped out of school at that moment and I started freelancing as a designer that attitude would have stuck with me. I would have said the client doesn't understand me or the project deadline is too tight. But if I had just changed my attitude and said you know what, this person gave me honest feedback because they wanna make me better. Like it's so much easier just to be like good job, good job. If somebody says that's fine it means they also don't really care. When they give you honest feedback, it's because they want you to be better. So I want you to approach critiques with the attitude of tell me more, whether or not you like the critics work, whether or not you think what they have to say is valid, there's gonna be some nugget of wisdom in there and if you approach that person by saying tell me more, you will become 10 times the designer that you are now. The next skill is to be a life-long learner. And this is so important because you can't have confidence in something you've never done before. I remember when I first started as a communication designer, I had all this anxiety. I was like am I good enough? Am I just bad enough? And this is what I didn't realize at the time. It's that, you know what, you aren't good. You also aren't bad, because you aren't anything. You're always becoming something and that's within your power because you can learn anything. You can learn anything. And if you approach communication design with the question and the request of what if and tell me more, you will continue to grow. So let's recap some of the skills that we need. First, our software skills, Photoshop for editing images. Illustrator for vector graphics. InDesign for layouts. After Effects for motion graphics. And Sketch for digital products. These are all about how you make things. They're just the tools that you need to bring your idea to life. But what you see on the right, these are the skills that really matter. Even if you have none of the skills on the left, you know what, you can learn them. They're even not rocket science. You can take a creative live course. You can learn from your friends. There's free YouTube videos on this. You can learn the software skills. I have no doubt. But the essential skills, the skills that separate who's gonna make it and who's not are on the right. First is curiosity, asking yourself with courage and conviction what if. The second is persistence and you have to persist through a bunch of criticism. You have to persist through challenges and that's okay. Just remember the difference between self doubt and project doubt. Self doubt being something that just brings you down, that says I can't do it, I'm not good enough. And project doubt as something that energizes you and says my project is bad now, but with enough feedback and with enough iteration and sketching, I can get it where it needs to be. Third, receptiveness to feedback. As Juliet my mentor and colleague said, be thankful every time someone gives you honest feedback because they're trying to make you better if not where you are now is the best you will ever be. And that's such a shame because I believe you can take it to the moon. The next it's develop the desire to be a life-long learner.
There is a tendency in design education to discuss mediums as career paths. Web designer. Print designer. Type Designer. And while there is enormous value in specialized skills, technology has radically reconfigured the landscape of the industry. Print designers are asked to design—and create—content published in monthly print magazines, weekly blogs, and daily social media posts. Social media marketing is redefining advertising. Branding includes more customer experience, both on and offline.
The field is rapidly redrawing its own boundaries and its relationship to other industries. What does it mean to be a communication designer in today's market? And how can we build success for tomorrow?
In this class, YuJune Park, Associate Director of the Communication Design program at Parsons School of Design, will share with you the fundamental skills that graphic designers, or rather, communication designers need to succeed in an industry that expects its practitioners to move fluidly from printed matter to digital screens and beyond.