How fast do your skills in Design progress?

  • As you know, there is no “magic miracle” that will make you become a great designer in a day.
  • However, there are solutions to reach your goal and rise your level much faster.”
  • Let me share with you 12 Tips to speed up your progress that I discovered when I was a student myself.

I hope they will be helpful to you – as you can apply them from your first day at school.

How to Speed Up Your Design Progress as a Student

Erwan is an upcoming student Product Designer.
And he’s looking for how to progress Faster as a Student Designer.

He’s from France, 20 years old, and will join soon
the ISD Rubika design school at Valencienne (in France).

He asked me:

How to Speed Up Your Design Progress as a Student | 12 Tips

  1. Dream big, grow big!
  2. Fight your fear
  3. Draw with ugly doodles!
  4. Cut down your phone distraction
  5. Draw anything you love!
  6. Get inspired
  7. Feel stressed? Draw with fun like a kid!
  8. Learn your sketching fundamentals ASAP
  9. Compete with your classmates
  10. Learn graphic design / visual communication
  11. Let your ideas divagate
  12. Think benefit. Not technology.

“Hey Erwan,

Your question is pretty interesting.
You have not started your program yet, and you look for getting better by yourself.

  • By not waiting for your future teacher’s instructions, you show that you are proactive. Well done!
  • Being proactive in the design industry is one of the top qualities needed to succeed!
  • You told me you will leave your hometown to study in another city. Awesome!

It seems that nothing can stop you! 🙂

12 TIPS to Progress Faster as a Student Designer


Dream big flying kid airplane.png

Your design degree is not your ultimate goal.

It is important. But there is something else that matters a lot more: Your design portfolio.

Imagine 2 fresh students having both zero skills.

  • They study at the same school and both will be graduated.
  • On paper, there is no difference.
  • However, if you look closer: One will progress like a rocket, enjoy and get hired before his graduation day, while the other may still struggle with his portfolio.

A degree does not prove much. Your portfolio does.

Don’t target passing your degree. (That should be just the minimum required)
If you want to become a great designer, dream of a much bigger goal!

Think of getting ready for what will happen next after your school. There, you will on your own. Complete your school projects as if they were real. And give your best. The results will follow.

Do not hesitate to do things that the school doesn’t ask you to do. 
That’s how day by day, you’ll get closer to your dream goal.

Sometimes, joining a company you love may look impossible.

  • It would be too good to be true!
  • A little voice says…You feel not being good enough.
  • That’s a normal feeling. But remember, if you do nothing, it will for sure be impossible.

You may want to create your own design agency to contribute to the world.
If you don’t know yet how to, that’s fine!

“As long as you pursue that shiny star that attracts you”.

Dare to dream big.

On the days you feel a bit moody.
Spend a few minutes on what makes you thrill as a future designer! And imagine yourself in a few years. 🙂

(I remember dreaming of joining Adidas.
It felt impossible, people who were better than me didn’t have this chance.
I persevered, and one day I was invited to join them in Germany as a Footwear designer)

“Target the moon and you will reach the stars”

But how to know if your dream is big enough?
I can’t tell as everyone is unique.
But what I know is that if your dream does not intimidate you, it’s not big enough.

Your job is to challenge the impossible to get what you need.

Example of a dream from a young student designer, in INDIA:
Create affordable wheelchairs for disabled people in their home country.
He wants to contribute to making his country better. 


Flying kid no fearFear is what will make you procrastinate and slow you down. 
  • Because of fear, you may stagnate for a day, a week, or even for years.
  • Fear is a natural feeling you should not deny but learn how to tame it.

“Even though you are scared to do something, just do it.”

Think of a Diving pool.
  • Some will jump and get it done, survive, redo and carry on getting better!
  • They realize it was not as tough as they thought
  • So they get ready to dive again! And progress, and progress!

Some will laugh at your initial stage of fear.

  • That’s ok. Everyone started as a beginner.
  • And you won’t let your fear stop you. Because you have a plan. 
By going out of your comfort zone often, your brain will associate Obstacles with Opportunities for progress.
That’s how soon, you will love taking on new challenges!
Courage is not the absence of fear.
It’s feeling fear, and still doing what you need to.


Drawing Ugly Doll.png
Here is a common mistake from beginners.
We admire great designers, and we try to do the same, but after hours and days of practice trying to imitate them, we keep failing and give up!

Be proud of your ugly doodles!
They are the ones who will help you get results.

If you wanna reach that level faster, you got to go through the fundamentals of sketching. One of the top rules is to start your creative sketching sessions with ugly doodles.
  • Keep doodling! Keep failing! Repeat…!
  • That’s the daily creative process of a designer.
  • Sketching is like sculpture. It’s something you refine along the way.

Here is a creative example of “doodling for professionals”.


4. Cut down your phone distraction

Phone zombie.png

A good way to increase your skills faster is to eliminate daily tasks and distractions.

  • I would recommend you stop watching TV,
  • Stop browsing your Facebook feed like a zombie
  • Reaching your email only once a day will do.
  • Don’t play games and shut down your phone notification, especially from social media
    (Keep only the important notification from people you care about the most).

Don’t let your phone and apps dictate what you should do. 

  • I am not saying you should totally suppress these distractions from your life.
  • But remove them from your daily habits.
  • You will become much more productive and focus on your passion.
For example, instead of looking at your phone in the subway,
why not get a pen and sketch things and people around you?
Try to replace your “passive” time with creative time and draw things around you.

5. Draw anything you love!

Love heart shadow passion.png
Any design student will be overwhelmed by the projects given at school.
Keep drawing and even though you study Product design, learn from other fields such as fashion, architecture, plants, cars, comics, manga, anatomy…!
You don’t have to become a specialist for each,
but what you will gain will influence your style and will benefit you in becoming unique as a designer.

Start with what you enjoy the most.

If you wonder what to draw:
There is an infinity of things to explore.
And you may wonder:
Where should you start? Simple.
Start with what you enjoy the most.
  • Do you like manga? Go study manga!
  • It’s gonna help you in your product design too!
  • You might surprise yourself.
    You could create a Manga sketching style for your product design project!
  • Suddenly you realize your portfolio is full of projects that nobody has ever done before!
  • By tapping into your personal interest, you become “unique”.
  • This is what will make you desirable as a designer and non-replaceable.

6. Get inspired

Celia Calle Vertigo.png
Celia Calle – Vertigo

Browse and spot designers you feel inspired. If they have a sketching style you admire, study them.

Steal their techniques and mix them up!

  • Once again, don’t hesitate to explore other fields of art.
  • I personally enjoy Celia Calle who is a fashion Illustrator.
  • She also did comics cover for Marvel.
  • I admire her lines and worked on importing her feel into my product design sketches.

7. Feel stressed? Draw with fun like a kid!

Celia Calle.png
Celia Calle illustration
You will meet stressful situations at school and you are gonna be affected.
At these moments, remember to have fun!
Step back, and remind yourself that becoming a designer is what makes you happy.
Let me share with you a simple trick to help you relax:
  • Pause your work for a few seconds
  • Adjust your body posture to be straight
  • Inhale deeeeeply from your nose and exhale slowwwwly from your mouth.
  • And smile. 🙂

Your brain is gonna be fulfilled with happy chemistry that will relax you instantaneously.

8. Learn your drawing fundamentals ASAP

Quick map sketching fundamentals.png

A common mistake is to believe that your Design school will teach you whatever you need to perform.
Each school’s philosophy and organization are pretty much unique but don’t expect to get everything you need whenever you need it. No matter how expensive is your school. Try to do not to feel “entitled”.
No system is perfect. 
From that standpoint, don’t waste time complaining but be grateful for what you have and keep doing your best! So you keep moving forward.

9. Compete with your classmates

Turbo snail race.png
Turbo snail race!

You will meet a lot of new friends and will get affinity with some of them.
Learn from who are better than yourself.

Remember, if you want to grow faster:
Make sure you are not the best in your group.

Join people who are better than you. So you can learn.

Surround yourself with friends who love competition!
And you will cheer you guys up, and always try to be the one to figure out things first.
Share your discoveries, and all of you will keep growing together.
Don’t be ashamed of asking: “Hey, how did you do that?”

 10. Learn graphic design / visual communication

Fruit packaging.png

A great project deserves a great presentation to be appreciated as its whole value!

When I was a student, we realized that as Product designers, we had to study visual communication too.
Our ideas had to be visually promoted.

Study people’s presentations and try to extract the best of them.
Don’t hesitate to study magazines, brochures, posters, packaging… Study their composition, color codes, and fonts and spot what is working for them… so you can import them into your work.

11. Let your ideas divagate

Dream balloon moon.png

A good way to get results faster is to keep thinking about design daily. 
Use your imagination even when your teacher has no project for you. 
  • Do you brush your teeth? Think design.
  • Do you drive your car? Think design
  • Do you go shopping? Think design.
For example, when I’m in bed closing my eyes before sleeping,
I enjoy letting go my imagination free. I make stories in my mind. And ideas link together. 

Guessing game:

At day time, I also like to play at “guessing people’s story” just by observing their outfit, body posture, facial expression… old people’s face wrinkles could tell if they had a “smily life” or not.
This applies to people but also to objects, architecture, monuments…
Not far away from my home town, there is an old house having holes in the walls.
They come from the impact of bullets from World War II.
When you see something,
try to see what’s the hidden details from the past and guess their story.

12. Think benefit, not technology

Starck quote.png

A common mistake is to take a new technology and start thinking about what you could do with it.
It’s not wrong, but I could not say it’s right though.
  • As a designer, your priority is to create for people.
  • They are your main source of inspiration.
  • Ask yourself what problem you could solve, and how you can improve their life.
  • Then only explore which technology best fit your objective.
Watch designer interviews you can find on Youtube or Netflix
Work on improving your designer mindset and absorb the good vibes.
I have a special admiration for Philippe Starck and Patrick Jouin.

That’s all that comes to my mind now.
If you have any tips that can help improve faster, please tell me in the comments!
See you for the next article and tutorial!
Take care.
Erwan ISD Rubika Valacenciennes question designer produit.jpg
Erwan’s email is in French, as I am too.

Testimonial of the day from Olivia Pan:

  • I enjoyed your course and it was immensely helpful for me to get started drawing.
  • It helped build up my confidence and overcome the self-talk about ugly sketches :).
  • I didn’t realize how hard it was to get started.
  • I had spent money on books, and local community college classes, but your course + kind feedback was the thing that helped me get through! 

Olivia Pan Testimonial course sketch like the pros


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