who got me this far.
And for you,
to help you
go even farther.
I’m so proud of you!
A.K.A. THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ZERO CHAPTER FOUR
When You Get Stuck
CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER FIVE
Finish That File!
Keep Going, You Matter
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
LET ME INTRODUCE YOU
Welcome to the graphic design family,
we’re all crazy! But it’s like a fun Thanksgiving
dinner crazy. Let me introduce you to
everyone. There’s your wild wine aunt
who uses Comic Sans. Over there is your
overachieving cousin who makes her own
paper for each project. And I’m your design
big sister, a little annoying sometimes but
really wants the best for you and has your
best interests at heart. I’m your biggest
fan, and can’t wait to see the amazing
wonderful things you are going to create!
“It is very
and to do a lot
—as much stuff
little fear as
SO YOU HAVE A PROJECT
WHO IS IT FOR
Ooh, what are you going to create? A sick
website for a local business? An album cover
for your favorite band? An entire magazine
about dogs? Whatever it is, I’m sure it will
rock. Let’s get going, we’ve got ideas to
come up with and projects to make!
So, you’re a graphic design student who
just received their project brief from your
professor. Super exciting! Make sure
you take notes on all of your project
requirements, make a list of what you need
to get done, circle the deadline on your
calendar, and get going on researching!
Whether it’s your first-ever freelance client
or your 24th, here are some key things to
include in your contract. Learn from my
mistakes and make sure to include these
so you don’t have a five-month-long
unresolved client project (what...no...I’m
not speaking from experience…)
FOR EVERYONE’S SANITY
Okay, I’m definitely speaking
from experience. My first
freelance client contract left
out way too many important
aspects that led to a less than
ideal experience. Hopefully this
list will help your freelance jobs
go a little more smoothly.
The next page has a list of
some of the most important
items to include in a contract.
The most important thing to
include (besides payment) is
the deadline. Make sure you
and your client agree on
the deadline, that way you
aren’t rushed in designing
and your client can hold you
accountable. Don’t provide an
unrealistic deadline; make sure
to add at least three days to
the amount of time you think
it will take you to complete
the job, emergencies happen
(computer crashes, WIFI going
out, files getting lost, the list
goes on and on!). Also, if
you have trouble with time
management, list out a few
milestone deadlines for
individual aspects of the
project. Informing your client
of when you will provide mood
boards, sketches, progress
updates, and then the first
draft can help keep you
accountable and on track
to complete your project.
Ensuring you include the
intended amount of revisions
you will provide to the client
will help both you and the
client stay on track. Without a
set number of revisions, the back
and forth between you and
the client will be endless.
When you set a limit of three
revisions, it ensures the client
takes the time to fully air all
of their desired changes, and
you then have the time to
make them all. It’s a win-win
Whew. This is the hard one.
Pricing varies per designer;
there isn’t one right answer
to how much you should
charge. However, there are
two basic ways to go about
pricing your work: by the hour
or a flat rate per project.
A flat rate per project is, in my
opinion, best for smaller jobs,
like a single logo, social media
graphic, or one page design.
The benefit of a flat rate price
is that you are able to get
paid a defined amount no
matter how long it actually
takes you to complete the
job. This is also good when
your client has a set budget
that you need to fit within.
However, don’t undervalue
your time by working many
hours for a flat rate. You want
to ensure that your investment
of time in the project is equal
to your compensation. The other
method is an hourly rate,
which is what I prefer, as you are
being more accurately paid
for the work you complete.
You may run into an issue with
this method of payment if your
client has a more restricted
budget. To calculate your
hourly rate, you must take
into consideration your level
of experience with the value
of your time. Personally, I charge
time and a half from my regular
‘day job’ for freelance work,
as that is a job I complete
in my off-time. This will be
different for everyone, but trust
me when I say, don’t be afraid
to charge people! Your time is
valuable, and you deserve to
be accurately compensated
for your creativity and ideas.
Don’t let someone undervalue
your skills just because they
exist in the realm of the arts!
This may come about naturally
when coming into contact
with your client, but in this age
of social connection, I think
it is important to establish
modes of communication
with your client. Whether this
is restricting contact to just
email, or providing your
personal phone number
or Instagram page to stay
connected, figure out your
communication comfort level
and set those boundaries with
your client from the beginning.
briefs, and we
WHEN WORDS ESCAPE YOU
Often I don’t know what to say when
a client has a request or crazy idea.
These responses are for when you don’t
know what to say. Feel free to rewrite,
copy, plagiarize, and steal to your
CAN YOU MAKE THE LOGO
Hello there! In regards to making the logo
larger in your design, I have attached some
options for how large I would recommend
making your logo. I want to make sure we
are utilizing space the best we can for you,
which means making sure we have space
to include (either other elements of the
design, or blank space for the viewers’ eyes
to rest). Let me know what you think of
these options, I’m sure we can find a
well-balanced option for you.
CAN YOU MAKE THE LOGO
Hello there! Unfortunately, when you apply
your logo in this size, it will not be legible
to the viewer. I’d recommend one of these
sizes, as it helps make sure everyone will
be able to identify this (insert product or
design here) as a part of your brand!
I’LL KNOW WHAT I WANT
WHEN I SEE IT!
That is totally understandable! However,
I want to make sure I successfully create
(insert project here) for you, and it is
difficult to draw from nothing. Here are
some sketches and inspiration (either that
you created or source images you collect)
for you to look over and let me know what
speaks to you!
WE CAN PAY YOU
Hello! As I am a freelance/student/
professional graphic designer, my rates
are already established to ensure I am
fairly compensated for the work I provide
you. I have listed them below for you, let me
know if these are within your company
budget. (Insert flat or hourly rates here)
I look forward to hearing from you!
DEFINE, DEFINE, DEFINE
The dictionary is a very good place to
start! The best way to get started on a
project is to define your terms. It’s way
less intimidating than jumping straight
into a blank sketchbook page! Whether
these are words connected to a school
assignment, or just general terms your
client said they wanted their logo to feel
like, start with the origins. Then move on
to synonyms and antonyms to broaden
your search. (Throw in a quick idioms
search as well, you can find lots of very
interesting phrases you’ve never heard
before!). Once you have some words
surrounding your field/topic, these words
can help lead your ideating process.
Need a place to jot down these notes?
The next pages are for you!
TIME TO GET THINKING
Can’t get past your first ideas? Let’s move
on by mapping out some connected ideas.
Start with a word in the middle of the
map. Then, think of the first word that
comes to mind in an attached bubble.
Keep going outwards until you’ve filled all of
the bubbles and have some completely new
words to get inspiration from! Here, I filled
out an example one for you to help get
Literally, write anything that comes to mind
when you think of your topic. Even if you
are creating packaging for snacks, if a moose
comes to mind, write it down. It helps. Put in
your headphones, and brain dump on the
Wow these are some great ideas!
26 Ooh, this page is going to be full of great thoughts.
Keep going, you’re onto something!
Okay, hear me out. Do you have exercise will help spark some
two completely different (or even new paths to follow.
just slightly different) topics for
your project that you don’t Oh and just in case you can’t
know how to connect? Then this find your sketchbook, the next
is the ideation process for you! pages include some grid paper
Start with your two words,
and those synonyms we looked
up earlier. Put one word on the
left, with its synonyms below it,
and do the same on the right
with word two.
From there, use the blank spaces
between the words to find a
connection. In the example on
the right, I started with hope
and book. but I’ve ended with
many more words that even
if they don’t lead to anything,
could inspire further research
Use the blank spaces on the
next page the next time
you are at a dead end,
and hopefully this ideation
LET’S GET BUILDING
ALL THE PAPER, ALL IN ONE PLACE
Here we go. It’s time. Time to
bring your idea to life and
start building! First off, let’s
start with the size of your
project. Crack open your
Adobe program, find the
right size, and create your file!
The North American Sheet
Sizes are based on the
measurement of 8.5x11 inches,
but not really. I don’t even
know. The metric system
makes so much more sense.
However, if you live or work in
North America it’s what we
use! Here are the typical sizes
of paper for your standard
Great for a flyer, handout,
or fold in half for a brochure.
Good for...slightly larger
Standard size for
Slightly larger posters!
Spoiler alert: these paper
sizes make a lot more sense,
in my opinion. International
Sheet Sizes are all based on
the metric system, and are
multiples of one meter. The A0
size is one square meter and
every size down is one half of
the size above it. The same
goes for the paper sizes larger
than the A0, they are two times
larger than one square meter.
KEEPING IT TOGETHER
Making a book, magazine, or other kind
of publication? Here are the most popular
binding options to keep in mind.
Once you fold your pages into stacks
(called signatures) the spine side is milled
down to remove the folded edges. Glue is
applied to the edge of the spine and the
cover is wrapped around the book.
For a saddle stitch bound book, the book
cover and signatures are nested within
each other, and then stapled through the
center of the fold.
PLASTIC COMB BINDING
A common binding for presentations or
folders, the plastic comb binding is readily
available at most print shops. The cover
and pages of the book are assembled,
holes are drilled into the paper’s edge.
Then the plastic comb is inserted into
these holes and then closed to create a
Yep, it’s pretty much exactly what it
sounds like. The cover and pages are
assembled in order, holes are drilled into
the paper, and plastic or wire spiral is spun
through the holes. This holds together
the pages and cover, and can easily be
removed to add more pages to the book.
There are many ways to add unique
elements to your designs, finishings being
among them. These finishings listed below,
when utilized well, help your print designs
Embossing is a super cool way to add
interesting textures to your printed materials!
To emboss a design onto a piece of paper,
the paper is pressed between two molds to
leave a raised impression. Fun Fact: If the
impression is made lower than the paper’s
surface, it is called debossing.
Ever wanted to make invitations with shiny
metallic gold borders? Foil stamping is how
you make that happen! For foil stamping,
heat is used to press paper against a thin
film containing colored metallic pigment.
The heat transfers the pigment to the paper,
resulting in an opaque layer of shiny foil.
A die cut uses a specifically shaped piece
of metal (like a cookie cutter) to cut a
shape out of the designed object. If that
seems kind of vague, that’s because it is.
Die cuts vary so much, it’s hard to narrow
them down! But everything from a window
cut into the front of a greeting card to
cloud-shaped stickers use a die line. Fun Fact:
When you make a sticker sheet that the
stickers peel up from, that utilizes a kiss
die cut, as it doesn’t cut through the entire
sheet, just the sticky layer!
Scoring is the act of gently creating a
crease in your sheet of paper so that ink
that has been printed on it doesn’t crack
when fully folded. I’d suggest using a
bone folder and using the edge to press
a line on the paper where the fold will be
before fully folding the paper along the
ridge. Then, once the paper is fully folded,
run the bone folder along the top edge
of the fold to make sure it’s pressed into
place. Definitely use scoring when folding
heavy cover stock paper or a design with
a lot of ink on the paper. This will improve
the overall craftsmanship of your project!
Perforation is the act of utilizing a line of
small holes to make tearing your paper
easier. Small holes are punched in the
paper in the desired shape, so that a
certain part of the paper can be torn
away. Perforations are very helpful when
your design has a specified area that
needs to be removed, like a coupon in a
magazine, or information ticket at the
bottom of a poster or flyer.
Since certain binding methods require
holes to place a spiral or plastic comb
through, drilling and punching are more
common finishings. Printers use a drill to
create these holes before binding the
Few things are
FOR THE INTERNET
Yes, the Internet changes every day so
these may go out of style soon. But here are
the most common design sizes for the web
and social media. These measurements
are all in pixels, not inches, as they are being
designed for the Internet. Upload quality is
the most important aspect of web sizing,
so make sure you double-check before
Image the width of the browser:
2500 pixels in width, height can be
whatever you want!
Image is less than the width of the
browser: 1800 pixels in width
1500 pixels on longest edge
Large Rectangle: 336x280 pixels
Medium Rectangle: 300x250 pixels
Leaderboard: 728x90 pixels
Skyscraper: 120x60 pixels
Large Mobile Banner: 320x100 pixels
Profile: 170x170 pixels
Feed: 1200x630 pixels
Banner: 820x312 pixels
Event Cover Image: 1920x1080 pixels
Highlighted Image: 1200x717 pixels
Profile: 110x110 pixels
Feed Landscape: 1080x566 pixels
Feed Square: 1080x1080 pixels
Feed Portrait: 1080x1350 pixels
Stories: 1080x1920 pixels
Profile: 400x400 pixels
Banner: 1500x500 pixels
Feed: 600x335 pixels (This is the size of the
image preview. As long as the image is a
16:9 ratio it will be able to be viewed larger
when clicked on.)
Profile: 400x400 pixels
Banner: 1548x396 pixels
Company Logo: 300x300 pixels
Company Cover Image: 1776x444 pixels
Feed: 1104x736 pixels
Article Cover Image: 2000x600 pixels
Profile: 800x800 pixels
Banner: 2560x1140 pixels
Video Thumbnail: 1280x720 pixels
Pin Images: 236 pixels in width, height
will be different depending on where the
image is displayed, recommended ratio is
1:3.5 to 2:3.
Geofilter: 1080x1920 pixels
Image Ad: 1080x1920 pixels
FOR THE BIG THREE
The amount of times I search up the
keyboard shortcuts for the same actions
on each of these programs is astronomical,
so this list is just as much for me as it is
for you! Here are the basic keyboard
shortcuts for Adobe Illustrator, InDesign,
Bring Forward: Cmd + ]
Bring to Front: Shift + Cmd + ]
Decrease Type Size: Shift + Cmd + <
Deselect All: Shift + Cmd + A
Direct Selection: A
Duplicate: Opt + Shift + Cmd + D
Export: Cmd + E
Group: Cmd + G
Increase Type Size: Shift + Cmd + >
Magic Wand: Y
New File: Cmd + N
Open File: Cmd + O
Print Project: Cmd + P
Save File: Cmd + S
Select All: Cmd + A
Send Backward: Cmd + [
Send to Back: Shift + Cmd + [
Show Grid: Cmd + ‘
Show Guides: Cmd + ;
Ungroup: Shift + Cmd + G
View Actual Size: Cmd + 0
Add Page: Shift + Cmd + P
Bring Forward: Cmd + ]
Bring to Front: Shift + Cmd + ]
Check Spelling: Cmd + I
Deselect All: Shift + Cmd + A
Duplicate: Opt + Shift + Cmd + D
Export: Cmd + E
Find/Change: Cmd + F
Forced Line Break: Shift + Enter
Group: Cmd + G
Hide Guides: Cmd + ;
Increase Kerning/Tracking: Opt + Shift +
Increase Leading: Opt + Down Arrow
Increase Point Size: Shift + Cmd + >
Lock: Cmd + L
New Document: Cmd + N
Open Document: Cmd + O
Package: Opt + Shift + Cmd + P
Paste in Place: Opt + Shift + Cmd + V
Place Image: Cmd + D
Print: Cmd + P
Rectangle Frame Tool: F
Save: Cmd + S
Select All: Cmd + A
Send Backward: Cmd + [
Send to Back: Shift + Cmd + [
Ungroup: Shift + Cmd + G
View Actual Size: Cmd + 1
Clone Stamp: S
Decrease Brush Size: [
Increase Brush Size: ]
Lasso Tool: L
Magic Wand Tool: W
Move Tool: V
Rectangle Marquee Tool: M
Spot Healing Brush: J
MORE THAN PICKING A FONT
Every designer has a love/
hate relationship with type.
Sometimes you get along
great, and sometimes you’re
screaming at Montserrat on
your computer as if it can
hear you and kern itself.
But take my word for it. If you
take time and put in the
work, it can be a wonderful
marriage. (Yes, a marriage,
unfortunately there’s no
getting away from type as
a designer.) Just in case you
forget which is which, here
are the different kinds of
typefaces, as well as a hit list
of my personal (and therefore
universal) worst typefaces.
A serif typeface is based on
Roman chisel-cut letterforms.
The little extra strokes on the
ends of each letter are called
serifs. These typefaces feel
more handwritten and are easy
to read, making them great
for large paragraphs of copy.
Sans serif typefaces, you guessed
it, are sans (or without) the serifs.
So, no strokes on the ends,
which helps these typefaces
be more legible in larger
applications. Headers, titles,
billboards, everything benefits
from a sans serif!
Slab serif typefaces are the
strict cousin to regular serifs.
These typefaces seem similar
to a serif, but a slab serif is
much bolder and blockier.
A slab serif has the small stroke
on the ends of letters like
a regular serif typeface but
they are much thicker and
more squared off, creating a
sometimes imposing typeface.
While often overdone, a nice
and polished slab serif can
help a headline stand out,
or create clarity in small
amounts of body copy.
Script typefaces are tricky.
They are trying to emulate
something analog, the cursive
handwriting, but digitally.
As you can guess, this results
in a wide variety of script
typefaces but very few decent
ones. Script typefaces are best
in very specific applications,
like wedding stationary,
where an elegant and flowing
hand-lettered look is desired.
Be choosy when deciding on
a script typeface; better yet,
just write it yourself!
every typeface on Dafont.com.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a
pretty big fan of the wacky
typefaces that website has
to offer. However, there is a
certain time and place for
a typeface party. These
typefaces are each usually
created for one purpose and
one purpose only, unlike a
good sans serif that can be
applied across many types of
projects. Be especially careful
with choosing decorative
typefaces, sometimes they
hurt more than help!
Ah, the wildcard, decorative
typefaces. Also known as,
It takes time to develop type
skills and type sophistication,
practice makes progress.
Sick of using the same three
typefaces? Branch out by
utilizing the favorite typefaces
of @Typetopia on Instagram!
Type pairings can be hard!
Check out Typewolf.com
online for their great type
Typography is synonymous
with concept, the concept is
reflected in the type chosen
Immerse yourself in the field to
find success, find the masters
and follow them!
From vintage to script to holiday
typefaces, Losttype.com has
some great typefaces you can
download for free, definitely
check them out!
Typeface Hit List
Just don’t use these, this is the opposite of
a Top 10 Typefaces list. In my opinion good
typefaces come and go, but bad typefaces
CULTIVATING COLOR PALETTES
The saying goes, ‘Graphic Design is my
passion’, but I actually think creating color
palettes is my passion. A great color palette
can make a design, so check out these
great resources to help you form yours!
Nothing beats Coolors, they make
creating a color palette so fun and easy!
Create palettes with multiple colors,
export the builds in RGB, CMYK, HEX,
and more. You can even drag in a photo
for Coolors to help you make a palette
from it’s colors.
A wonderful website with a great user
interface to help find the exact right
shade for you!
Search through recently created color
palettes, or sort by most recent, trending,
or random for new palettes.
This website features color palette
inspiration based on photography
and cultivated by season.
A great website to visit if you know what
initial color you would like to work with,
as it provides additional colors to match.
The site also generates a mockup interface
to show what your color palette would
look like applied to design.
A super helpful website if you are
needing to find a specific Pantone
swatch, or need to match your color
to it’s Pantone equivalent!
WORDS MADE VISUAL
Sometimes a clean icon or illustration is
the key to a successful project. Here are
some great places to visit to find free
graphics to kick-start your inspiration
or finish out a design.
LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
When You Get Stuck
ART BLOCK IS THE WORST
Art block can hit you like a
train, one minute ideas are
flowing and you’re tracking
along just fine. The next minute
you’re stuck and it’s like your
brain has never had an original
or creative thought in its
lifetime. It feels impossible to
think of anything, or when you
do have a new idea you are
quickly reminded of where you
got that inspiration from. And
your idea is a little too close
I’m here to remind you that
this is a problem almost
everyone struggles with
(I can’t speak for everyone,
unfortunately). You are not
alone if you feel stuck. In fact,
it’s so normal, it was a natural
inclusion in this book about
the design process. At least
once during each project
or job I feel like i shouldn’t be
allowed to be a designer anymore,
because surely a real designer
doesn’t feel like this. But since
I haven’t figured out how to
completely get rid of art block
forever, here are my best ideas to
help you overcome your art block.
VIEW SOMETHING NEW
It may seem simple, but often I
find that my art block is caused
by looking at the same pins on
Pinterest, or design accounts
on Instagram. It’s true that it’s
incredibly difficult (or impossible)
to have an original idea, but taking
inspiration from more sources results
in more informed ideas. Flooding
your brain with new and exciting
work from other designers modern
and historic, can help wash away
the stagnant thoughts currently
occupying your brain. Your brain
only has so much real estate,
and those old ideas haven’t
been paying rent in a while.
EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
Okay, definitely getting closer
to cliché with this one, but don’t
discredit the power of other
methods of art when looking
for new inspiration. Pick up
some watercolors or pastels
and just dump what is in your
head onto paper. Hands-on
art can help you mindlessly
sort through your thoughts
and set your mind back on
the right track.
Even if you aren’t really into
fine art, I’d highly recommend
taking a break from digital work
on your computer, even if the
extent of your exploration is a
coloring page and crayons.
READ A BOOK
Alright, now I’m really going to
sound like your mom. I promise
I just want what’s best for you!
Sometimes, usually a lot of the
time, you need to just take a
break from design to be able
to do design. Watch a new
movie, embroider a hat, read a
classic novel, go rock climbing.
Look to the rest of the world
around you, after all, they are
who you are designing for.
Spend time in the world
outside of design, so you have
new resources when you go
back into the design world.
These experiences are what
you can fall back on, when it
feels like you are stuck in the
Sometimes to overcome your
art block, you have to face the
root of your block. Is it the fear
of not being able to execute
your ideas perfectly? Is it fear
that your work will not be good
enough? Or maybe your work
has failed in the past, and you
just know it will again. Is it
laziness? The want to put off
completing your work until
tomorrow can’t be overcome.
These feelings of resistance
manifest in the form of art
block. While it may not be fun
or great to sit and figure out
these ugly roots of not having
an idea, identification is the
first step in overcoming.
to your work refreshed and
brimming with ideas.
Once you’ve dug deep,
reflected, and identified,
you can move past. You can
conquer like the incredible
designer you are. Past fears
can be put to rest by the
reassurance that growth
happens through failure.
You can hold steady in the
fact that each design is a step
towards your future, a building
block that must be completed
one step at a time.
Take a deep breath, you can
and will do this. Even though it
may be hard, you’ve identified
your source of resistance. You
have the tools to overcome,
so go out, cultivate new
horizons, and come back
is a language,
not a style.”
THE FINISH LINE
Finish That File!
SAVING OUT PROJECTS
Well, almost! Make sure to hit
save on that file...but wait.
How should you save out your
file? Listen, we’ve all been there.
We’ve all forgotten they stand
for. It’s okay. We have this list
now. Take a deep breath,
we’re almost there.
AI, PS, INDD
The main characters, these file
types are the default file types
for each program.
AI stands for Adobe Illustrator,
PS is Adobe Photoshop, and
INDD is Adobe InDesign.
The same as JPEG, it stands
for Join Photographic Experts
Group and is the most widely
accepted image format. It is
such a widely used file type
because the file size is usually
small enough to store and
share easily. On the flip side
this compression reduces the
quality of the image, so be
careful if you lower the file
size too much!
One of my top favorite
file types, PNG files have
lossless image compression.
PNG stands for Portable
Network Graphics, and PNG
files can have transparent
backgrounds. PNG is best
for detailed, high-contrast
images, especially those
that need transparency.
Use a PNG when exporting
something with a transparent
background into another file!
The Portable Document
Format, or PDF, file type
is the standard for most
documents including text
and/or photos. You and PDFs
will get very close, they’re the
most common way to save
out multi-page publications,
brochures, and presentations.
The SVG file type stands for a
Scalable Vector Graphics file.
These files use a text-based
format to describe how the
image should appear (yeah it
blows my mind too). This results
in the image being able to
be scaled without losing
any quality. These are best
for web and print graphics
that may need to be resized
for different applications!
I always download SVG files
as I can open them in Illustrator,
scale them to any size and
then edit them easily!
Last but not least, the EPS,
or Encapsulated PostScript
file! This file type is typically
used when saving out vector
illustrations as it prints them
at the highest resolution.
As vector graphics are scalable
without losing quality, they are
great for logos, graphics, or signs
and banners that are going to
be used in many sizes.
TIME TO SHOW OFF
You have your final project, it’s all wrapped
up and finished right? Nope! Show off your
work to your client or professor, then share
it with the world! Below are some great,
mostly free, mockup resources to make
your projects feel real and to make your
portfolio look BOMB.
to a piece of
design, yes, no,
and WOW! Wow
is the one to
IT’S REAL, AND IT SUCKS
I would hazard a guess that
almost every artist has, at one
point or another, felt the
crushing weight of the Imposter
Syndrome. Comparison is truly
the thief of joy and is often
the thief of productivity and
the cause of stress, worry,
and anxiety. This weight of
measuring your work to your
peers, your favorite artists,
or anyone else can quickly
overtake and feel like it’s
suffocating you. I know my
design friends and I have all
felt it at one point or another.
I’m even feeling it right now as
I’m writing and designing this
book! It can come and go,
or stay a while, but how do we
get cure Imposter Syndrome?
Can we cure this feeling of
dread and worthlessness,
this anxiety that you are
just pretending to do art and
someone will surely find you
out soon. It can feel like drowning
in expectations and standards
that you place on yourself,
with no life guard to help bring
you back to the surface.
While I am no expert by any
means, I hope that I can help
you realize the root of these
thoughts (spoiler alert, it’s fear)
and help you take the steps
to reassure you of your worth
(spoiler alert, you matter a
I’ve read a few books on the
feeling of comparison and
resistance in art, and the root
of these feelings is almost
always fear. This fear can come
from many different sources,
but it does seem to be the
common denominator when
having feelings of being less
than or worthlessness. These
fears manifest themselves in
thoughts of not being enough.
But what causes this fear that
leads to Imposter Syndrome?
Well, it can come from many
sources, fear of your credentials
not being enough, fear that
you don’t have enough natural
talent, fear that you will be
surpassed by your peers, fear
your work isn’t ever perfect,
fear that you aren’t meeting
expectations, and even fear
that your work won’t be liked.
These fears usually stem from
fears about yourself, or fears
about others, both of which
(while natural) are not often
founded in truth.
Fears about yourself often
connect your worth or value
to the things you create.
This simply is not true. You are
not only what you create.
If that were true, you could
boil people down to soap
packaging and highway
signs. But that’s ridiculous!
You are a person, filled with
thoughts, ideas, a beautiful
personality, an incredible
brain, and probably some
really funny jokes. You are so
much more than your work,
even though you create your
work. Your value is not directly
connected to how well you
design, you are worthy and
valuable. Period. End of story.
Fully believing in your value
and yourself is the first step
in moving past feeling like an
imposter in design. Because if you
have value, then you add to the
world of art, you belong there.
Another place fear stems from
is the fear of others, whether or
not they will like your work, is their
work better than yours, will they
get a job and you won’t, the list
can go on and on. And just like
you have to disconnect your
own value from the value of
your work, you have to disconnect
others from your work. To a
degree. While I’m not saying
that what your professors
or boss say about your work
holds no water, I am saying
that your fear of what they will
say shouldn’t hold you back.
Once you realize that you
and your work are valuable,
outside of what others think,
it helps combat those feelings
of being an imposter.
Design is all about creating
for others, balancing making
effective work that is helpful,
while still detaching your value
as a human from the success
or failure of what you create.
I try to remember, when a design
piece ‘fails’, gets a bad grade,
or a client doesn’t like what I
made, that it just isn’t the right
solution yet. It needs improvement
before the piece serves the
client the best that it can.
Failure is a step in the direction
of growth, and I firmly believe
that it is better to experience
failure than compare yourself
to a peer that hasn’t. You will
learn so much more from failure
than from easing through design,
always going with your first
idea and never digging deep.
Hopefully, these ramblings
will help you see that Imposter
Syndrome is rooted in fear,
fears that don’t have much
of a basis in reality. I hope you
see your value outside of your
design work, and how the act
of disconnecting the two will
go a long way in you feeling
confident in yourself and
combating fear. I hope you
fight fear with the truth,
embrace failure, strive for
more, stay curious and
remember that you are not
an Imposter. You create art,
you are a designer, and you
are valuable, no matter what
anyone else, or your inner self
has to say.
KEEP GOING, YOU MATTER
You did it! You’re done! You made
a wonderful project and it looks
amazing. Now, it’s time to go
do it all again. This may seem
exhausting, but it is the greatest
part of design, is that it’s never
done. The world is never done
improving, and designers are
on the front lines of creating
change. Take a minute (...or a
day, or a week...) to rest, refill,
and then jump back in! You are
doing productive and important
work that is uniquely you.