design competition idea lamp bulb

Is it competitive to become a Designer?

“Is it competitive to become a Designer” is a legit question.

But…

It also means: 

“Is it risky to become a Designer?”

Alright!

I will answer this.

First, 

I want you to reverse this question to trigger something important.

Ask yourself this:

Is it risky to miss your chance to become a designer and trade your passion for a meaningless career?

In other words:

Would you accept to trade your passion for a “Bullshit job”?

*A bullshit job is a modern term to define an activity that has no meaning, considered pointless such as some finance or administrative position for example.

One of the effects that appear to the employees of these types of jobs is Brown-Out. 

The brown-out is when you feel disengaged from your tasks at work, and feel empty of energy.

Imagine you wake up every morning and have to go to work with no motivation… day after day…

I know my question is a bit extreme:

(Would you accept to trade your passion for a “Bullshit job”? )

But that was my real personal story.

For university, I started to choose the corporate path.

I graduated with my 2 first degrees as an average student in Business, marketing, and IT (Information Technology).

I thought I would like it, but I didn’t.

The class was boring and theoretical like a dictionary full of dust.

On paper, I was ready for the real working life.
The period of your life you are supposed to get your independence, your freedom!

But…

  1. I could foresee a meaningless career full of boredom and maybe depression (?). This is why I decided to pause and think about my future.
  2. I choose this corporate path because my family and entourage did. It was my answer to doing the “right thing”. But was it the best thing for me?
  3. I love drawing since I was a kid. I love creativity. Most of my entourage doesn’t. Comparing myself to them had no sense.
  4. So I stopped thinking like “What they would do”. I took control of my destiny and decided to become a Designer. I would be different. I would be “ME”.
  5. I rewind my university level to zero and enrolled in my design school. I was 22 years old. And to make it short, I graduated at 27 years old with a Master’s degree with honors. 🙂

Just saying we perform so much more when we do something we love!
I prefer to do something I love in a competitive domain than something safe in a boring job.

You know what?

This love for design, creativity, drawing is what gives me a higher chance of success. I felt empowered.

If I didn’t follow/create/build my new path, I would maybe a white-collar by now working among thousands of others white-collar eating Donuts. : 9

Remember, you become who you believe in.

It took me more years than my friends to build up my career, but I never regretted my decision. Because I am now happy at doing what I do: Create : )

And my friends and family are also happy to see me beaming daily.

Don’t be trapped in a bullshit job

My point is: Make sure you ask yourself the right question. 

You don’t have to fear competition till it paralyses you.

Do not let difficulties kill your dream to become a designer in the egg.

When you take an important decision for your life, do not act by fear.

Living in fear is no fun.

Living with regret is worst

Only you can decide of what will make your life meaningful.

No one else will.

Your parents may choose safety for you over passion to protect you.

The last call is yours to activate (or not) your courage.


Now we are ready to go back to the question of:

  •  How high is the competition to become a Designer?

One of my teachers said: “Only the best (students) will succeed.

He said that to warn 1st-year students to add in more implication in our homework. Since the outside world is a competitive job market. 

My design school had thousands of students, hundreds are graduated each year from:

  • Industrial design, 
  • Transport Design, 
  • Fashion Design, 
  • Interior Architecture,
  • Visual Communication, 
  • Art Design 
  • and Video games / Animation Design.
Messy but Creative brain

Imagine all the fresh graduates coming out at the same time from all design schools from your city, country, continent… 

Thousands of them!

My teacher was right. 

The competition is huge.

Yes, it is if you look at the global numbers.

However, when you think twice you realize there is a nuance.

Think of a pyramid.

At the peak, the top 10% are the great students, 

and 90% below are the average, so-so students and “tourists”.
*I call tourist students who enroll but have no passion for design at all.

Most of the 90% of students will pass.

Get their design degree.

But how about their portfolio?
How about their value to the market?

What I mean is if you are ready to put on the work, your real competition is not thousands of students.

But the best few best students who compete at the top 10% only!

In other words, keep up the good work, and target to be among the top 10% to drastically reduce your competitors number.


How to be among the best

Avoid this mistake 1:

Compare yourself with the majority.

Compare yourself with the overall and average level of students.

And feel satisfied to be among this level. 

  • You are no great, no bad. 
  • Your classmates do pretty ok, and you too. 
  • You get a good mark on your projects, you pass, and soon get graduated.

Cool! 

But your portfolio is also average and looks like other students from your class.

  • You have zero personal projects.
    Too bad, all of you get into the job market at the same time.
  • And your profile has nothing more than others to offer.
  • You blend like a drop of water in a river.
    (Wow, I just came out with this poetic comparison. : P)

Now you face a rude competition.

Once again, to succeed you need to target to be among the top students.

Become a reference for your classmates,
till some of them may want to copy you.

Do not target at becoming average like most of your classmates.
Target to stand out and become better than anyone. 

A great designer inspires others.


Avoid this mistake 2:

Be the best in your group

A mindset to have is: “Never be the best in your group”.

It is pretty counter-intuitive.  

But if you hang out only with people who have a lower level than you. Great, you can help and support them.

However, who will help you to raise up?

Surround yourself with higher skills people than you.

  • Look for mentors.
  • Learn from them.
  • Ask them questions.

Keep being hungry!

  • I personally sat with the best students in my class to see how they draw and absorb their positive energy.
  • Take also as model students from years above you.

Keep challenging yourself.

The vertical ascencion: Target the top 10%

Ok, this is great to stand out by being among the best. 

This “strategy” is using a vertical ascension.

But there is another parameter to succeed, even if you are still junior.

It’s to have something special that make you unique.

This is a horizontal approach.

You may not be among the best, but you have something that differentiate you from your pairs.

That something special is what Design companies may “fall in love with you.”

It could be:

  • Your sketching style,
  • Your rendering techniques,
    Maybe instead of the classic Photoshop, you come up with watercolor.
  • Your storytelling
  • Your presentation
  • Your energy…

That thing can be anything!

Find an original way that no one else do to get spotted.

No point running to compete. Be original!

For example, when I was in my Design School, the career department created a yearbook of all students for companies to refer to. 

One of the students bring a feather and stick it at her page as a bookmark.

Smart move!

If you want to compete with others, do things no one does. 

As you can see from this example, it doesn’t always require a huge amount of work, but a bit of originality.


Apply with a custom-made project

Let me share with you an example from my own experience. 

After working for Adidas, I flew to Singapore to look for a Designer job.

I applied for Charles & Keith, one of the major shoe and accessories fashion brands in South East Asia. (Partially owned by LVMH, Louis-Vuitton-Moët Hennessy-group) 

Before I applied, 

I did my homework. I did research about them, went to their shop, asked questions to my friend about this brand.

I tried to look at what I could do better, improve or innovate.

Thinking on how to be special

I came up with a small collection of shoes I draw on Sketchbook Pro.

I printed it, and send it with my job application.

They never asked for it.

But I wanted to be proactive and give myself the best chance.

I may not be the most experienced candidate, but I wanted to show how I was: The most motivated!

Remember, a junior designer can beat a senior designer by showing high motivation. 

Do more and different from others, so people can’t compete with you. 

TIP: Do you know why I printed it?

Why I didn’t just joined it in the email?

I printed it (on glossy photo paper), so the documents have a chance to circulate in the headquarter office. 

If I did send only by email, only the HR and people concerned would see it and may be forgotten as soon as the email is closed.

However, with a printed version of my work, it remains at the office desk.

It is visible.

You never know who would see it.

You never know with whom the HR or designer in charge would share it with. Maybe the HR family wife or husband, kids could see it too!

And you don’t know how much influence the family’s opinion might weight on the decision.

Your few pages creation could remain days, weeks, or months at their home or office. You never know!

You never know how long and who could see your work.

Your job as an applicant is to facilitate your interviewers to choose you.
Give them reasons to talk about you and defend your case.

Remember, old school methods works.
It is the same marketing as the calendars given for free by your bank, pharmacy, bakery.

They want to have their logo displayed in your home all year – all this for a super cheap investment.

This is an example of a fun and practical usage of marketing.

I was happily hired and invited for a Welcome meeting with important people of the company (including the CEO).

And before I left the meeting room, the higher management congratulated me on how much they loved the few shoes I made for them. : )

To beat the competition, find ways to become so good or so unique that no one can compete with you.

Remember APPLE?

Think Different.

Think different - Steve jobs
Think different – Steve Jobs

Cheers,
Chou-Tac

PS: A last mind trick when you prepare your interview.

Yes, it is a chance for you to be invited to a job interview.
However, keep in mind that YOU are the opportunity.

Of course, be humble.

Do not only talk about how great your resume is.

What matter is how you can help their company to get better.

What value you can bring.

You want them to know you more. Yes.

But your intention number one is to create a mental picture in your interviewer’s mind:

You shape a positive image of the near future where the company and you are working together doing great things!

Companies are attracted by great profiles, but they mostly want to hire the best fit for their company culture and ambition.

Hope it helps you boost your energy!
And help you to believe in yourself.

Cheers,
Chou-Tac

PS: A kind message from John about how his teacher recommended The Design Sketchbook blog to his students. 🙂

PPS: I received a message from Shaine the night after I published this article.

Shaine shares with us his experience on how he let Engineering behind and he took action to follow his passion for Design:

“Hi I’m Shaine a 2D animation & visual development student from Canada!

I just wanted to say that even though my field is a little different from a graphic designer, everything in your content helps me a lot and applies to me too like the article you wrote “Is it competitive to be a Designer”.

I read all of it and all I have to say is that everything you wrote in there is so real and true and I’m sure it applies to everyone not just designers.

I also started in doing what everyone was doing since I came from a STEM high school program, with the pressure of going to a university right out of high school, I thought the most reasonable thing to do was pursue Engineering or all those years will be a waste (if I chose art).

So I did.

I got admitted so I said to myself “so this is my future…”, not gonna lie, I felt proud that I got admitted but I wasn’t exactly happy knowing that this was gonna be my future.

I did a whole term and I hated it.

I didn’t even try since I had no motivation to excel.

Luckily that time, destiny gave me an “out”.

I left the country with my family to go back to my home country, Philippines, for some personal reason in November when final exams were near.

I left for about two weeks and came back only to take the exam, I failed to comply with most homework and barely did good in the exams.

I decided to not enroll in the second term.

This was unfortunate at the time but without it I would still probably be continuing that path and would regret that I didn’t quit earlier.

For the people that’s in a similar situation let me just say, It is really hard to quit and always seem bad to us since it is linked to the word failure.

But it takes courage to take charge of your own life.

Don’t take the easy way.

Take the path you really want even if things get in the way.

Don’t let yourself make excuses because that’s the fear talking.

Like Chou said, don’t let fear control you.

Let me tell you, It’s gonna be worth it.”

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About The Author

Chou-Tac

Hello! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : )

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