Coastal Media Brand

Some people are better suited for certain jobs than others. Skills and personality traits combine to make you good—or great—at your job. When it comes to design, do you know where you fall? Are you a good designer? Or a great one?

The answer might be both. Between good days and bad, and projects that rock and ones that leave you ragged, one of the things that will help you be a better designer all the time is awareness of characteristics that great designers have in common.

1. You Are Curious

great designer

Curiosity might have killed the cat (or so the saying goes), but it is god for the designer. An innate curiosity about the world and how things work is part of a great designer’s MO.

From art to music to seeing things for more than just surface quality, questioning how things look or work or function is a valuable characteristic.

This curiosity is probably what makes you think about why something should look a certain way or what makes a user more likely to engage with a specific color or button style in a design project.

2. You Are a Problem-Solver

great designer

One thing that many designers have in common is that they like to solve problems.

This applies to the puzzles that are design as well as managing time and your design business (if you do freelance work). A great designer doesn’t have a job where he or she can just take instructions from someone else all day long, they have to think about project needs and work toward them.

3. You Have Thick Skin

great designer

Great design isn’t always about what you think looks best. It’s also about what the client wants and needs.

Many times this means having thick enough skin to handle changes to the design or even rejections of drafts or ideas. Great designers take all this in stride and are able to bounce back quickly without taking offense to changes or suggestions.

4. You’re Friendly and Optimistic

great designer

One of the biggest challenges that many designers don’t expect is how much you have to deal with people. Being a stellar communicator helps. So, does having a friendly smile and optimism for projects and ideas.

While these things don’t necessarily have anything to do with the actual work, they have a lot to do with how you get the work done and work with clients. Friendliness and optimism go a long way (and can help you get and keep clients, too).

5. You Like to Try New Things

great designer

Trying new things, keeping up with trends and a desire to keep learning will keep you on top of the design game.

Good designers have a classic style that works in any situation.

Great designers mix classic and new techniques to create something modern and timeless at once.

Trying new things involves learning new techniques – invest some time in thinking about voice or virtual reality, maybe – and staying on top of the industry. It’s also about investing the time to network with others in the field or take classes to broaden your skillset.

6. You Know How to Fail

great designer

Not every project will be a resounding success. Sometimes you will fail.

How you fail says a lot about what kind of designer you are. How did you recover? (Here are some ways to recover well if you aren’t sure.)

7. You Know How to Evolve

great designer

Understanding and accepting change is a key characteristic of a great designer. (It might actually be the most important characteristic.)

Everything about design comes in waves of things to do and not to do; best practices and visuals change as well. It’s important to know what modern design looks like. You have to have a firm grasp on what users are doing and how they are doing it.

And while it can be a lot of work to think about constantly changing, it’s part of the job. Great designers do this with ease, and often without even really thinking about it.

8. You’re Self-Motivated

great designer

Working in a creative field can be tough. All of the rules are a little arbitrary and subject to interpretation. What someone likes can vary from person to person or project to project. To get through it all, you’ve got to be self-motivated.

Great designers know how and what keeps them working and creating in a way that’s good for them and clients. You know how to get out and kick yourself into gear when others might walk away, and you do it all whether the feedback is good or bad.

9. You Are Meticulous

great designer

Great designers can see every detail, every pixel out of place and envision how to correct these things to create better balance and harmony.

An eye for detail can set you apart from everyone else. Whether it’s color subtleties or a UI that just doesn’t quite work, you can envision how these tiny elements can change and make the design work better. (But be careful, some of us have the tendency to get too caught up in details and that can drag down timelines.)

10. You Can See the Big Picture

great designer

Great designers can also see the big picture. For many, there’s a details first, big picture second philosophy. And that’s OK.

Being able to keep both perspectives in mind will help keep projects moving and on task, while making sure it all comes together. Big picture designers often go on to be creative directors with different goals, but many freelance or in-house designers with big picture mindsets can also find great success by pairing the ability to think big while looking at details as well.


So you have to be a little bit of everything to everyone to be a great designer, right? You might think so if you look at this list quickly, but there’s a lot more to it. The biggest commonality is that most designers learn to be professional chameleons, adapting to projects and teams to make the design work.

Just like some of the best design techniques are invisible, the greatest designers are as well. You create something; you solve a problem and no one ever knows you were there. That’s when the design just works, and you did something great.

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