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Graphic Design in 2022: Our UI Design Lead Talks Remote Leadership, Degrees, and Design Inspiration

Today we’re chatting about all things graphic design. I’ll cover remote leadership, whether you need a degree in design, how I became a UI designer and much more.
February 8, 2022
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Head of UI Design, The Delta
“Everything is designed, few things are designed well.” - Brain Reed 

This is one of my favourite quotes. Everything that’s around you is designed in some shape or form. Architects, shoemakers, artists and tailors are designers. Anything that aesthetically and functionally adds to your life was made by someone with a passion for design, right down to the puppy on your toilet paper.

At The Delta we excel at UI design because we live it every day, we use the technology that drives the future in our own lives, and we believe in the solutions we build.

Leadership in the age of work from home 

With the help of Slack huddles and video calls, remote working is not that much different from managing the team in person, except ALL CAPS doesn’t exactly have the same effect as shouting at someone, just kidding (sort of 😏).

Remote work is about transparency, the key being communication and trust. I don’t like micromanaging my team and I don’t hire team members that are not self-sufficient.

I try to inspire my team to do what they feel most passionate about and try to give them work that suits their individual styles and strengths. Passion drives design and inspiration comes from being passionate. I want them to want to work on a project. 

We all deal with work we don’t want to do from time to time but mostly I try to give them as much slack as I can and only take the reins when I need to (AND THE STICK WHEN I HAVE TO).

Rather than just lead, I try to hire people who not only want to get the job done but want to excel at it.

All the degrees in the world won’t make you a good designer

You don’t need a degree to be a graphic designer, but it helps. 

What you do need is to learn the fundamentals essential to graphic design, you can do this through short courses or online resources. However, tertiary education will help speed up the process and cement the foundations for the skills needed to do design work.

When we hire new talent we don’t even look at a CV or accomplishments before looking at your portfolio. 

Your portfolio is king and gives you a chance to show off your skills — this is more important than any type of formal education. Showing what you’re capable of gives the design lead a clear picture of what you bring to the table. 

But remember to be 100% transparent about your input on the overall design that you’re presenting. Work is often created in teams so don’t go taking credit for stuff you didn’t do and set unrealistic expectations. You have to be able to replicate the quality of work you claim you’ve previously done. If you were working with a senior that guided you, give them the credit they deserve. 

I would, however, give preference to someone with practical experience at an agency or even more so freelancing experience. The latter teaches you to not only complete tasks from end to end, but also to manage workflows and client expectations.

The advice I’d give if you decide to become a designer is to first choose the field that appeals to you the most. We at The Delta require strong UI designers, but most of us have backgrounds ranging from print, motion design, 3D animation, marketing and more. 

Specialising in one field will help to focus your efforts, making you a better candidate for the job, but there are a few skills you’ll need to master to work in UI design. These are some of the skills that will make your portfolio stand out from the pile: 

  • The basics of graphic design
  • Brand identity design
  • UX design
  • HTML & CSS knowledge
  • Thoroughly understand responsive design & designing for different screen sizes
  • Native iOS and Android design and their limitations
  • Designing for hybrid apps (React native)
  • Technical knowledge (Figma, Adobe creative suite etc.)

On top of mastering your chosen field and these skills, most designers should have a working knowledge of all design fields since the company you work for will often require you to dabble in design work that’s not part of your daily routine. For example, as UI designers we still do print and other collateral which are sometimes needed by clients.

How I fell into the world of UI design

I was clueless by the time I finished high school, all I wanted to do was go overseas on a working holiday visa, which I did. I spent my time in the UK doing gardening, construction work, picking up trash and wiping pigeon poop from office buildings.

I came back too late to enrol at university and still wasn’t sure what I’d study. So I took a gap year. I worked on my abs (still no luck with a six-pack), played games into the small hours of the night, got yelled at by my dad a lot, and mucked about with my friends. 

Eventually I met a guy at the gym studying 3D animation. I always had a passion for film; I grew up on Pixar movies, and 3D always fascinated me. So I decided I was going to be a 3D animator — and this is where the love story really begins.

Little did I know that one of the few schools that offered 3D was a design school, I mean, I remember thinking “what is design even?”. 

As part of exploring this new thing called design, I got into video editing, discovered that I couldn’t draw, and eventually enrolled in design school. I made it by the skin of my teeth. Back then they only took on around 120 students, only half of which would graduate. And I, with my lack of drawing skills, somehow made it.

I excelled at most of my subjects, mostly because I finally discovered something to be passionate about. But not drawing, I still suck at that. Luckily, there’s an amazing thing called stock that you get to use in the real world because drawing pictures — ain’t nobody got time for that

In my final year (which I split over two years) I worked part-time at a boutique digital agency and double majored in 3D animation and communication design. Over the next decade, I spent time working at agencies, tech companies and some hard-to-define companies. I worked my way up and eventually, I started managing teams and found myself in product design. 

So after 10 odd years, I haven’t used my 3D skills and  I’ve moved away from print. I’ve fallen in love with UI/UX design and the startup venture space which is where I’ll stay.

Agency vs freelancing: The great debate

This decision largely comes down to two factors: security and drive. 

If you work for an agency you’ll have a stable income, the opportunity to make mistakes that don’t directly impact your pocket and most importantly, the opportunity to learn from others.

But freelancing offers many other benefits:

  • Charge your own rates
  • Be your own boss
  • Directly engage with clients 
  • Manage your own time

The drawbacks are that you may end up working very long and unpredictable hours and you’ll have to balance managing client expectations while doing all of the design work yourself. 

I would recommend that everyone tries this at least once, even if you don’t think you’re cut out for it, it’s the fastest way to grow and learn and teaches you to make decisive and meaningful decisions about the quality of work you produce and the expectations of clients. 

Top 4 places to find graphic design inspiration

  1. Dribbble

Not only do we find inspiration on Dribbble, but we also contribute our own designs to the platform. Follow The Delta on Dribbble.
Source: Dribbble

  1. Behance
Behance is easy to use and loaded with design inspiration. You can follow us on Behance too. 
Source: Behance

  1. awwwards.

awwwards. recognises and promotes innovative web design from around the world. Their website also has a section for web design inspiration.
Source: awwards.

  1. Muzli

Muzli claims that they’re like crack for designers — which they are. Their weekly inspiration is a digestible roundup of what’s happening in UI design. 
Source: muzli

At the end of the day, our biggest inspiration always has to be the client’s brief. If you’ve got a project in need of UI design that amplifies your brand, talk to us

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