TIPTOP : Skills for today’s designer

TIPTOP : Skills for today’s designer

Nidhip Mehta lists 10 qualities every designer must possess to meet the industry demands

What are the qualities one should look at to be a good designer? If you are looking at a career in design, do equip yourself with the best skill available. Below are the 10 important qualities that a designer should be working on to meet the demands of the current and future industry.


The profession no longer wants a graduate to simply be a database of knowledge. They want designers to be willing to learn new things and try out unexplored paths. This requires an eagerness to take on things outside of one’s comfort zone and experience.


The future is uncertain, especially in India. We don’t really know what society will need five years from now. So designers need to be able to adapt smoothly to different scenarios and contexts.


This is one aspect that has never changed. Designers need to exhibit a sense of discipline, self-management, and punctuality because the demands of the industry can be tough.


The industry doesn’t want worker drones who have no ownership of their work, or who don’t share the vision of the organisation. Young designers need to be as accountable for their work as the senior leadership, primarily because even young designers become leaders very quickly at work.


Going beyond what is required is a hugely valuable quality for designers. Often, the solution to a design problem is not formulaic, and only appears when the designer takes that extra step of additional research, a new approach and innovative execution.


Despite the myth of the lone cowboy designer coming up with ideas on his own, design is almost always a collaborative effort. Learning to work with others and to synthesise multiple perspectives into one coherent solution is very important.


Specialisations are becoming rare. Clients want “total” solutions, not just one. A designer may have to provide a solution that is not just an app, for example, but also a space, or a film, or an object, or packaging or all of these.


Designers do not design for themselves; there is always a client. Designers need to fully understand who they are designing for, and put themselves in their shoes, rather than try to fulfill some artistic expression. If both can be achieved, that’s great, but for design, fulfilling the user’s need and understanding their context is of prime importance.

Balancing Tech Tools

Young designers often make the mistake of thinking that technology is the driver of design. It’s not. Technology is just a tool. A tablet or 3D printer is just as much a tool for achieving design as a pencil or paintbrush. Learning how to balance between digital and manual skills is a must. Some solutions will simply not come from a device. They will come from the natural extension of the hand that is best expressed by a quick sketch in a journal.


Many young designers, especially in India, are very concerned about getting a job when they graduate. The truth is that more than half of design students start their own practice within a few years of graduation, sometimes immediately. This requires business sense, which, unfortunately, is often given less importance in design schools. This has to change!

This may all appear very confusing for a young person who is contemplating a design career, especially when much of the education of the past has been focused on tangible skills and gaining knowledge. These are of course important, but attention also needs to be paid to the less tangible skills. A young adult should choose their path wisely, and ensure that the colleges they are considering will cover all of these points, and build up these qualities  along with the material knowledge required to be a designer. If one focuses only on the material “skills”, then one is only a skilled technician. A designer is – or at least should be – so much more.

The writer is Head School of Design,  Pearl Academy



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