Self-doubt as a Graphic Designer

Anonymous

New Member
Hi guys,

I hope this finds everyone well. This is quite a personal topic and I'm sure it's one that many of you have already experienced, which is trying to overcome self-doubt as a Graphic Designer.

Firstly, I thought I would give everyone a bit of background. I am a (fairly) recent graduate, having graduated in Graphic Design in 2016. Since then, I have landed roles working as a Freelance Designer on a logo design/branding project in London, working as Visual Design Intern (also in London) and most recently, working as a Junior Designer for an agency much closer to home.

Now out of the three positions I've had, this one relates to the internship I had, which was for a start-up company. I was initially supposed to be there for one year, but I only ended up being there for three months, after being told that I was 'no longer needed,' even though the company I was with assured me that this wasn't my fault and were happy to give me a reference. However, despite being told this, it has knocked my confidence and I'm still not 100% sure how to pick up the pieces and move on, without negative thoughts plaguing my mind, such as: 'maybe I wasn't fast enough. Maybe, I could've done this etc.)

Fast forward two months and while I have landed another position as a Junior Designer, I'm still experiencing these negative thoughts and I honestly fear this is affecting my performance. Some days are worse than others and it when it gets really bad, it's like looking at a blank screen and not being able to get any ideas out whatsoever, which evidently, is affecting my speed and quality of getting the job done.

On top of this, I am also Autistic and have had problems with social anxiety, so I'm constantly fearing what others think of me, which doesn't help either. So, my question is, is anyone else highly critical/experienced doubt of themselves and if so, how have you dealt with it? Any answers would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. :)
 

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
Honestly, you're going to feel this way as a new designer, you're new to the business side of graphic design and to be perfectly honest it can be pretty brutal if you take things personally, basically you have to separate yourself from your work. Design is constantly changing, the expectations from clients is being over inflated due to 'everybody' having a copy of photoshop and getting potentially negative critiques on our work is part of the daily grind.

Now you say you're worried you're not good enough but you can't be that bad because you've managed to land another job after the disappointment of the internship in London and everybody here will tell you getting on the ladder is one of the hardest things you can do when it comes to design. You also need to think of the bigger picture with the internship, it was with a startup company, so likely pretty poor financially. It's also entirely possible that while they may have advertised for 12 months they only really intended to use you for long enough to get their work done and then 'fire' you, advertising a 12 month internship will get more interest than a 3 month one in London etc.

You also seem to be worrying about days where you have a lack of creativity but lets be honest what you're experiencing is completely normal because while we'd all love the ability to turn on our creativity exactly when it's needed it just doesn't happen like that.... just think how many times an idea pops into your head when you're about to hop into bed or in need of the toilet etc after having a 'wasted day' during your working hours. Just keep a notepad and pen with you to jot down ideas etc because you never know when these ideas might be 'perfect' for a project.

As to being critical of ourselves, I know I rip my work to pieces when I review it before showing it to a client, it's part of 'my process' to ensure I supply them with good quality work (plus I'm a bit of a perfectionist... which is really not a good thing in design lol) but like any other criticism, don't make it about you. Use any critiques that you get to improve your work and improve your techniques/processes in creating the work, over time (it's not an instant thing) you will learn how to do things better/easier and how to interpret client requests better which will in turn make your work smoother/quicker etc.

In essence, you're new, you're not going to know everything yet, even though some companies expect it these days, and you're going to have learn to stop thinking that any criticism of your work is also a criticism of you. I'd also like to think a decent company would give regular feedback to a junior designer for at least the start of his career in that company so listen to what they say and improve any areas they say are weak, if they don't do any feedback consider being proactive and ask if there are any areas they think would be beneficial for you to develop/work on to improve what you can offer the company (although obviously don't go too far outside your 'area of expertise')

Hope that all makes sense, I've got a cracking headache right now.
 

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
Doing good Anon.

Yesterday was shite on an epic scale but today is turning out better. :D

On your second question:

"is anyone else highly critical/experienced doubt of themselves and if so, how have you dealt with it?"

Yes, every single day.
It's the nature of the game when you work in an industry that is essentially, highly subjective.
Some days I think I'm the dog's danglers and others I feel like what I do is a joke and I should throw in the towel.
In all honesty, if anyone on here said they hadn't experienced self doubt they they would be liars (or @Levi). ;)

It sounds like you've just been the victim of circumstance, that's all.
You were working for a start-up yes?

How many start-up's actually make it?
I've worked for more than one that didn't.
Was it my my fault? No.

The first thing I would (and have) said to anyone wanting to succeed as a Designer is grow a broad pair of shoulders and a teflon back.
That and the "K.I.S.S. rule" and using a limited colour palette. Oh, and not too many typefaces.

Nobody has knocked your ability even though you're just starting out.
It probably will happen though in some way, no matter how good you are.

It may be that your Autism is making you take things a bit literally but I'm just guessing there.
You HAVE moved on and landed a new role.
Does that not say something to you?
You've done something that not everyone can do and you probably beat others to do it.
Upwards and onwards!

I used to suffer from terrible anxiety and shyness so I do know where you're coming from.
I used to really beat myself up about stuff but it is only "stuff". I've learned that though experience.
I've worked as a Designer/Illustrator for almost 30 years I've learned to say "F@CK IT" a lot more and these days I couldn't give a shit but I still get self doubt.
Again, it's the nature of the game.
You HAVE to learn to live with that and that you can and will be your own worst enemy if you take that path.

If I could speak to my former self that I'd say "Don't worry about what others think (too much). Take compliments and forget the negatives. Don't let yourself hold yourself back as that's the only person that will do that. Don't drink so much and stop smoking".

I have what others might call problems.
I have dyslexia and aphantasia (I can't see things in my head).

I've turned these 'negatives' into positives.
They may not make me better but they do make me different and in what I do, people do like different.

If you don't get off this train of thought then at worst you are going to have a very short career as a Designer and at best a shit time doing it.
 

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
In all honesty, if anyone on here said they hadn't experienced self doubt they they would be liars (or @Levi). ;)
True, I often look at other people's work and think 'wow, thats good, I need to up my game' all while simultaneously thinking could I actually do it too because as someone who knows about that field you know just how much work etc went into it. It's how you respond to it that makes a difference, do you look at it and give up or look at it and analyse it to see where you can improve your own work and ultimately make your work better. Nobody can say they know EVERY trick in the book when it comes to their chosen design field, hell I often watch 3D animated cartoons/films etc to see what sort of tricks they're using to 'simulate' stuff (I do 3D design, rather than graphic design) and see if it's something I can do to speed up stuff.

I have what others might call problems.
I have dyslexia and aphantasia (I can't see things in my head).
It would appear (according to the thread on this forum) I may have aphantasia too, and I know I do have dyslexia so maybe some of my 'working around' problems stem from that. When I was younger (and I suppose even now) I'd work out 'my way' of doing something which in some cases might appear considerably more convoluted but for me it's incredibly simple because it's been 'designed' for my methodology and thought processes. Dyslexia can also affect emotions but I personally found martial arts (I stopped a long time ago now though) was a great way to 'stabilise' them when I was younger.


@Anonymous - Now my understanding of autism is incredibly limited but from what I've read there seems to be an element where someone who has autism can become 'overly attached' to something they're interested in and it's clear that you're really passionate about design. Is it possible that this is maybe playing a part in your concerns and that you maybe need to do whatever you've developed to help 'balance' out that attachment?
 

Anonymous

New Member
Honestly, you're going to feel this way as a new designer, you're new to the business side of graphic design and to be perfectly honest it can be pretty brutal if you take things personally, basically you have to separate yourself from your work. Design is constantly changing, the expectations from clients is being over inflated due to 'everybody' having a copy of photoshop and getting potentially negative critiques on our work is part of the daily grind.

Now you say you're worried you're not good enough but you can't be that bad because you've managed to land another job after the disappointment of the internship in London and everybody here will tell you getting on the ladder is one of the hardest things you can do when it comes to design. You also need to think of the bigger picture with the internship, it was with a startup company, so likely pretty poor financially. It's also entirely possible that while they may have advertised for 12 months they only really intended to use you for long enough to get their work done and then 'fire' you, advertising a 12 month internship will get more interest than a 3 month one in London etc.

You also seem to be worrying about days where you have a lack of creativity but lets be honest what you're experiencing is completely normal because while we'd all love the ability to turn on our creativity exactly when it's needed it just doesn't happen like that.... just think how many times an idea pops into your head when you're about to hop into bed or in need of the toilet etc after having a 'wasted day' during your working hours. Just keep a notepad and pen with you to jot down ideas etc because you never know when these ideas might be 'perfect' for a project.

As to being critical of ourselves, I know I rip my work to pieces when I review it before showing it to a client, it's part of 'my process' to ensure I supply them with good quality work (plus I'm a bit of a perfectionist... which is really not a good thing in design lol) but like any other criticism, don't make it about you. Use any critiques that you get to improve your work and improve your techniques/processes in creating the work, over time (it's not an instant thing) you will learn how to do things better/easier and how to interpret client requests better which will in turn make your work smoother/quicker etc.

In essence, you're new, you're not going to know everything yet, even though some companies expect it these days, and you're going to have learn to stop thinking that any criticism of your work is also a criticism of you. I'd also like to think a decent company would give regular feedback to a junior designer for at least the start of his career in that company so listen to what they say and improve any areas they say are weak, if they don't do any feedback consider being proactive and ask if there are any areas they think would be beneficial for you to develop/work on to improve what you can offer the company (although obviously don't go too far outside your 'area of expertise')

Hope that all makes sense, I've got a cracking headache right now.

Thank you Levi :). I can definitely relate to a lot of the stuff you've said here and as for the points about criticism and feedback, you're absolutely right and I agree that this is something I'll need to work on. I also always bring a notepad, pen and pencil to work too, as this helps clear my mind and help jot/sketch out any ideas I have, as well as any feedback and improvements I need to make. As for the point about Autism, I agree with this too, as I do get overly attached, which I also think is playing a role in my concerns.
 

Anonymous

New Member
Doing good Anon.

Yesterday was shite on an epic scale but today is turning out better. :D

On your second question:

"is anyone else highly critical/experienced doubt of themselves and if so, how have you dealt with it?"

Yes, every single day.
It's the nature of the game when you work in an industry that is essentially, highly subjective.
Some days I think I'm the dog's danglers and others I feel like what I do is a joke and I should throw in the towel.
In all honesty, if anyone on here said they hadn't experienced self doubt they they would be liars (or @Levi). ;)

It sounds like you've just been the victim of circumstance, that's all.
You were working for a start-up yes?

How many start-up's actually make it?
I've worked for more than one that didn't.
Was it my my fault? No.

The first thing I would (and have) said to anyone wanting to succeed as a Designer is grow a broad pair of shoulders and a teflon back.
That and the "K.I.S.S. rule" and using a limited colour palette. Oh, and not too many typefaces.

Nobody has knocked your ability even though you're just starting out.
It probably will happen though in some way, no matter how good you are.

It may be that your Autism is making you take things a bit literally but I'm just guessing there.
You HAVE moved on and landed a new role.
Does that not say something to you?
You've done something that not everyone can do and you probably beat others to do it.
Upwards and onwards!

I used to suffer from terrible anxiety and shyness so I do know where you're coming from.
I used to really beat myself up about stuff but it is only "stuff". I've learned that though experience.
I've worked as a Designer/Illustrator for almost 30 years I've learned to say "F@CK IT" a lot more and these days I couldn't give a shit but I still get self doubt.
Again, it's the nature of the game.
You HAVE to learn to live with that and that you can and will be your own worst enemy if you take that path.

If I could speak to my former self that I'd say "Don't worry about what others think (too much). Take compliments and forget the negatives. Don't let yourself hold yourself back as that's the only person that will do that. Don't drink so much and stop smoking".

I have what others might call problems.
I have dyslexia and aphantasia (I can't see things in my head).

I've turned these 'negatives' into positives.
They may not make me better but they do make me different and in what I do, people do like different.
Would you like me to pop over @Levi?
I could hold a compress on your forehead and I have some very good tablets.

Thank you Scotty. There have been times I've felt like throwing in the towel too, but the way I look at this is that I'm still here and that I haven't given up, regardless of how my mind thinks sometimes, which is something I do feel proud of. I do agree I can be my own worst enemy, but this absolutely should not hold me back and I guess that with more experience, I'll learn more ways of coping with it.
 
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