01 November 2017 | Compass of Design
7 min read
Please mind the gap
The gap of where you are now to where you want to be
Have you felt recently that there’s a gap between where you are at now **and **where you want to be?
I tend to have this feeling a lot while I’m working on my businesses for So Magnetic **and **Compass of Design. I see a huge gap between where I want everything to be and where it’s at now.
Anyone who’s seen my mind map on what I need to get done for my two businesses knows that I have pretty big ambitions and some reasonably high standards for what I have going on.
There’s a reason we have standards.
It’s not like we’re 100% complacent with where our skills are at right now. There’s always room for improvement. I want to become a master designer, have a big presence in the design world, and meet as many cool designers, like you, along the way.
There are people who have done it, but there’s always this gap between where they are **and **where I am at.
But let’s talk about that “gap.”
How do we bridge the distance between it?
Leverage your weaknesses, double down on your strengths
I’m on a quest to fill the gaps in my design education. Being self-taught, there’s always something that pops up that I don’t actually know how to do.
Two areas that I struggle with constantly are color choices and typography along with their application in media, print, and logo design.
I’ve recognized that there’s a lot I still need to learn, but** I know and accept that there are areas where I still need to improve**.
This weakness can actually be your strength if you embrace it. You will start to notice where other people excel and you’ll end up able to pick their process apart, being closer to solidifying that skill.
For every skill that you lack there’s still something you’re good at. Figure out how you can leverage what you know now to learn what you need to know.
If you start with finding what you need to improve, that puts you one step closer to achieving things.
By doubling down on the things you do know, you are able to start filling your portfolio work that highlights what you are good at. This creates opportunities to help you learn other areas.
In my case of color and typography, I’ve been using my newsletters and articles as a muse to create title images using various typography techniques and color choices.
There are plenty of people who have gone through where you are at to get to where they are now. Many of them might be doing the exact type of work or exhibit skills that you wish that you could be doing.
If only your work could be that good. If only your design clients could be that great. If only, if only…
You obviously recognize good work and talent.
We wouldn’t be here this far in the article if this didn’t resonate. But recognizing that someone’s got great skill is half of the step. You need to recognize and analyze how that is working for them.
Measure your work against theirs.
Are they using more professional typefaces?
Can you recognize the grid behind their layout?
What mockups are they using?
How about their messaging? Branding?
How good is their social media game?
When you see the work you want to be doing, you need to reverse engineer that formula. There’s something about what they do that is very impressive and we’ve got to learn to recognize that.
Once you recognize it, find out how you can start applying that same technique to your own work (design, social media, process, marketing, color, etc.) It will take practice, and lots of frustration in the beginning, but eventually, through this emulation, you’ll be able to get your work up to par too.
Spend some time picking apart their process and see what you can apply to your own practice.
Present your work professionally
I’m not saying you aren’t a professional now, but there are reasons why a professional’s work looks so great.
They present their work beautifully through process, interactions, mockups, and case studies.
I’m talking about taking the time to put together a first rate experience for someone going through their work.
Sure, you can take a screen capture of your work and post it to Dribbble or Instagram. I certainly have and that’s fine. However, there’s a difference between pulling back the curtain a bit and posting poor-quality screenshots of your work.
When someone looks through your design portfolio, they have to believe that the product exists in this realm, that they could see or use it out in the real world. So I’m focusing on grabbing professional mockups, premium fonts, and setting better presentation of my own work.
My logo for Minimum (above) was a practice brief that was inspired from Briefbox. It’s a step towards practicing professional level design briefs, and presenting the work in a clean and more realistic application of the work.
Start presenting your design with real objects, real people, and real process.
Keep one eye open
Everywhere around you, there’s some random object like a menu, a mural, vehicle dashboards, science-fiction technology, etc., that was designed by another human being. You may not notice it, but it’s there.
There is exceptional design around you every day.
The thing about good design?** Half the time, good design is invisible**.
As you start to bridge that gap and get better as a designer, you’ll start to notice lots of different design elements hidden in your environment around you.
Yes, these little design gems are hidden in the things you use every day.
But you have to start looking for it.
Think of them as **design snacks… **If you’re hungry to fill the gap between you and good design, start consuming the little bits of good design that you find and really figuring out what’s working well for it or how it can be improved.
Really, everything you use has been designed by someone.
If it has great typography, take a picture. If the layout and grid is exquisite, take a picture.
Still trying to fill the gap?
Come join other like-minded designers who are working at becoming masters of their craft.
Every week we go over ways to market yourself better by improving your design skills, your personal brand, and other topics to further develop as a great designer.
Tap either picture to get started investing in your design skills (:
By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.
Some of the best design articles written by members of the Compass of Design Community to help you strengthen your design skills, business/freelance ethics, and design professionalism. Join us in the community or get on the newsletter to get access to exclusive content.