Tips on How to Become a Better Designer

I've been working and, you could say, living as a designer for over 12 years now. Throughout these years a lot has happened, all of which caused me to grow as a designer and learn new things. In the beginning I had a vague idea of what was necessary to get better and succeed in the design industry, but it took me quite a few years to discover some basic concepts that really made me become a better designer. I will share some with you today.

Promote your work

"Put yourself out there, being awesome is long tail" - Allan Branch

In the beginning I was naive. I thought if you were good enough people would find you. I was never promoting my work until my office got robbed. Then I decided to create Abduzeedo and put my work out there. I made a Flickr account, DeviantArt, Behance... you name it. These services are much more important in promoting yourself than an own site can be. If you use the right tags and produce good work, these sites will make you more visible to the community.


  • Start posting your work on sites like Flickr, DeviantArt, Behance, Carbonmade.
  • Participate in groups on sites such as Flickr. It's an easy and simple way to get your work out there.
  • Eventually create a separate portfolio site as well. It will give you more credibility.

Illustration tag on Behance

Smashing Network is selecting good blogs to be part of their network, when it comes to Smashing Magazine, we cannot expect anything less than let's say smashing ;)


Your best work is your expression of yourself. Now you may not be the greatest at it, but when you do it, you’re the only expert - Frank Gehry

I think one of the main things that I really learned, is that personal projects are the best way to evolve when it comes to techniques and aesthetics. Being our own client and consumer, gives us the freedom and time to do what we want. Every time I see a nice effect in movies, posters, magazines, books, etc., I make a mental note to myself and then go home and try and recreate that effect. Doing that has really increased my arsenal of skills. It gives me more confidence when I have to start a new work for a client. Another great thing about experimenting is that it makes your portfolio bigger, better, and more versatile.


  • Try to recreate effects you see and like just to learn the technique.
  • Experiment with new trends that way you will be able to absorb those details that characterize the trend and apply them to future projects if necessary.

"Chocolatopia" - Personal illustration, that I worked on during 2008 in my lazy spare time. with some longer breaks... Basically it's a photo montage, with some strong retouch / paint work and some 3d additions. - Pawel Nolbert

Personal project inspired by a scene from the Ironman movie

This is a Personal Project to launch my nw website to middle of November. A little preview of the new image and brand of PLAYFUL. A lot of fluorescent colors, shapes, geometries, typography and tones of LOVE. - Pablo Alfieri

Encourage Feedback

Feedback is really important for designers. Sometimes you might get a lot of criticism, but that's okay, it's part of the game. The secret is to use the criticism as a motivator to evolve and not as a reason to get angry. You might even get some useful tips and advices. Sometimes we get so used to what we're doing that we become oblivious to some details in our work that is pretty clear to everybody else, it's important that we let other designers or really just anybody to take a look at our work. The small details are what will make your work better and unique.


  • Ask questions when posting your work.
  • Respond to the comments and post versions of the images with the suggested adjustments.
  • Never argue or get extremely upset with the criticism, it not only won't help you but it might also ward off others from commenting.

Signalnoise Live Broadcast is a great example from James White on how to interact and get feedback from the community

Give Feedback

“It looks good” is the worst feedback you can get - Whitney Hess

When it comes to design, giving feedback is as important as receiving it. Participate in the community expressing your opinion when people ask. Try not to be rude or cocky. The idea is to help, get help, and evolve. The clash of ideas and point of views will really broaden your design skills.

  • Comment on posts and sites where images are shared.
  • Help others by giving valuable tips and ideas.


The easiest way to promote yourself as a designer is by sharing your skills. Before Abduzeedo, I used to experiment in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc but I used to keep them to myself. Then my office was robbed and I lost everything. So I started Abduzeedo and with it, the tutorials. At first the tutorials were just a way for me to backup my files and have a quick overview of my techniques, but some became really popular which made me realize how important it is to share what we know.

I get a lot of emails with people asking me what the point is in making these tutorials and giving the source files away. Well, my answer is simple. I can show someone how to create a light effect or how to use Photoshop filters, but I can't show them how to come up with the idea themselves. The tutorials are about how I use the apps to make the ideas come true.


  • Write quick tutorials showing some techniques you think might be useful to others.
  • Write guest posts for other sites sharing your experiences and thoughts.

Reader tutorial by Chanito

You can even make money by sharing your skills. Sites like PSDTUTS pay you to write for them

Pursue Simplicity

“Design is so simple, that’s why it’s so complicated” -Paul Rand

Less is more. That was one of the Bauhaus mottos almost 100 years ago and it's still new and true, even more now in the internet age where we live with an overflow of information. It's important to be simple and efficient. Everything that is good is simple, but not everything that is simple is good. Making something simple and good isn't easy. It requires a deep understanding of what we have to do and whom we're doing it for, so we can simplify things. I believe simplicity is all about being confident in the thought that less is more and making decisions to remove unnecessary features and elements.

"Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent". — Joe Sparano

Like I said, it took me more than 10 years to fully understand these things. I can call it experience because most of them I learned through my own mistakes. Now it's up to you to see if it'll be worthwhile for you. These aren't exactly rules, just thoughts and suggestions. I would love to hear your take on becoming better designers.

Magazine cover for Super Interessante based on a tutorial that the client saw and liked.

Download our mobile app

Try our new iPhone and iPad app

Brought to you by