Top 4 critical skills for designers to learn in 2020

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How do you stay relevant and advance your career in an ever-evolving field like design? While keeping up to date with the latest design trends is helpful, it’s also crucial that you continue learning and growing in your craft—developing both new technical skills and soft skills. As a designer, expanding your horizons in this way will not only benefit your personal growth, but also leverage yourself in the hiring pool or as a freelancer.

In our recent 2019 Global Design Survey, we asked designers around the world what skills they wanted to learn in the next few years to help advance their careers. Thousands of respondents of all design disciplines—graphic designers, UX designers, creative directors, etc.—shared their insights and in today’s post, we’re revealing the most popular responses.

Below are the top four critical skills designers want to learn in the next few years to help reach new levels of success in their careers. Find the rest of the answers by checking out Dribbble’s Global Design Survey results!

4. Illustration

You’ve probably noticed that illustration has become an important component of web design nowadays. Brands both small and large are embracing this form of art more than ever, understanding the value it brings to a product design’s user experience. It’s no wonder that thousands of designers around the world identified illustration as a skill they’d like to learn in the next few years.

While drawing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop the skill. Professional illustrator and teacher Tom Froese lends some advice to those looking to refine their skills in illustration. Check out his full blog post on how to develop your illustration style below!

“Drawing from life (i.e. direct observation) is one of the best ways to grow and progress as an illustrator. I think a lot of people are discouraged from drawing from observation because they struggle to draw realistically. But more important than drawing realistically, more important than what actually ends up on your page, is the process of drawing. Drawing from life trains you to see more.”

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Build your illustration skills:

3. Communication

Not every critical skill in a designer’s toolbox is technical. The third most important skill designers want to develop to advance their careers is communication. As a designer, part of your job is to communicate your ideas, design thinking, and process. Product and hiring managers alike are now more than ever looking to hire candidates with stellar communication skills. And when it comes to freelancing, communication is just as important to earning the trust of your clients.

Product Designer Eugen Eşanu recently contributed a blog post all about the importance of soft skills in design, and why communication, in particular, is vital. Check out an excerpt from his article below:

“You can have a great portfolio, but more than anything, your communication skills will make you stand out from the crowd. Be consistent with your communication. People forget and deviate quickly from what they heard a week ago. At least once a week, remind them what the business/product goals are, what the plan is if things go wrong, and what to look out for. The same applies to your design process. People don’t know what you do and how it works. Always explain and (re-explain) what you are working on so others can trust you.”

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Hone your communication skills:

2. Business

The second most important skill designers want to hone is business. With tons of creatives leaving full-time roles to pursue freelancing or start their own agency, knowing the ins and outs of setting up a business for success is essential. This can include everything from managing finances to marketing your product, leveraging your social media presence, and everything in between.

Running a successful business is no easy feat, but luckily there are tons of resources available that are specifically for designers. Earlier this year, freelancer Lexi Smith shared tips for running a successful freelance creative business on the road and called out the importance of diversifying your income sources:

“Creating an income plan for your business is so important—even when you are unsure where your next client will come from. Knowing that you only need X amount of clients per month to pay the bills is crucial. Why? Because not knowing makes for aimlessness. When you know your numbers, it’s easier for you to figure out where you should focus your attention.”

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Level-up your business thinking:

1. Motion Design

Did you guess correctly? The number one skill designers want to learn in the next few years to level-up in their careers is motion design/animation! Motion graphics are high demand in the design world, and adding this skill-set to your repertoire is a sure-fire way to make you stand out in the hiring pool. Whatever design discipline you specialize in, motion can be applied to just about anything—from illustration to web interactions.

Mastering animation can be intimidating but there are plenty of motion design softwares to explore and tutorials to get you started. Product Designer at Readymag Stas Aki shares his number one tip for getting started in animation, specifically for web interactions:

“My biggest piece of advice for designers new to web animation is shooting a video before everything else. You’ll get the sense of how a motion picture is being created. Then, master Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Pro to cut what you’ve shot and to work with the timeline. This way, you’ll get all the basics of creating a picture.

Study up on motion design:

What these responses have shown is that advancing your career isn’t limited to mastering the next best design tool, or the newest feature releases of your favorite softwares like Photoshop, InDesign, etc. Designers want to level-up their technical skills in unfamiliar areas of design, while also honing in on communication and business skills to take their careers to the next level.
Curious what designers identified as their other most desired skills to learn? Find the rest of the responses in our
2019 Global Design Survey findings.

Want more insights into the demographics of the global and US design community? Check out Dribbble’s Global Survey findings and study up on where the design industry is and where it’s heading .


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