“Sometimes that ocean likes to reminds us that we are all but a small ship on a very big body of water that has tested even the bravest of designers and swallowed them whole.”

In the beginning as designers, there was a time where we all had to get our feet wet. We decided that we wanted to make our maiden voyage into the unknown, and we all had that similar experience of digging our toes in the sand and taking that first step. Like that of a captain of a ship, the life of a designer can be a very strange, scary, and most times a very rewarding one, and just like that captain, we are in complete control of our own ship, of our own destiny, no matter how treacherous the waters are that lie ahead.

To take from the movie Count of Monte Cristo, we are reminded that:

“life is a storm, you’ll bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when the storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout, “Do your worst, for I will do mine!”

That being said, there are certain things that we need to have in order before we take on the world, and show it what we’re made of.

Setting Our Sails

As a designer, we must all understand that we’re only as strong and powerful as the ship we sail on, and it is important for us to make sure that we are prepared for anything and everything.  In the beginning, it is a very exciting thing to think about the journey ahead, we’ve been waiting for this moment to trek out on our own, test the waters and see what she has in store for us. Sometimes that ocean likes to reminds us that we are all but a small ship on a very big body of water that has tested even the bravest of designers and swallowed them whole.

Ask any brave designer, and they will tell you that the most important thing you can set sail on  is a strong portfolio. And as a new designer, it’s even more important because you really want to show potential clients that “wow” factor in your work.

Like a good, strong, sturdy ship, your portfolio will be the vessel that will get you to where you want to be, and it will be the main thing that keeps you afloat when the waters get rough(and trust me, they will get rough). Remember to keep your portfolio small and powerful, the whole “less is more” concept comes to play here, quality not… you get the picture.

Think of it this way, a great portfolio, is VERY good. but an okay portfolio is better than nothing, so go start your maiden voyage and start set sail.

Learn to tie the knots

One of the first and most important things you can do before setting sails, is learning to tie knots. This day and age, it’s almost impossible to not have access to learning something, have you ever used the phrase “Google it?” there’s nothing we can’t learn, and in our industry that is more prevalent than ever with sites like DesignMoo, Forrst and LoveDsgn, which allows us to learn how the designers/developers work. There is also the likes of Smashing Magazine and Abduzeedo, which provide us with great and always up to date tutorials for us to learn from.

Follow your own course

There are many designers out there who have been where you are, have been where you are heading, and are right behind you in your wake, that being said, it’s important to be able to chart your own course, create your own map, and learn new things. Those designers we look up to and follow will be the first to tell you that one of the most important things you can do as a designer, is get out there, and try new things. Don’t be afraid to go rogue sometimes and make mistakes, that’s how we learn!

The greatest achievements we have made as designers were by those brave sailors before us who decided to blaze their own trail and see where it took them. So while you’re learning from those before you, and leading those behind, don’t forget to follow your own course and see what treasures await you.

Bask in the sun

While manning a boat and heading for the never ending horizon, setting sail as a designer can be a scary thing, BUT, that doesn’t mean you’re alone and that you shouldn’t be able to sit back and enjoy the process. Every great journey begins with the first step, and as long as you’re moving forward, you’re doing great, don’t forget to drop anchor at times and reflect on how far you’ve come, because at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important. But when the waves come crashing, knowing you’re prepared, you can look that vast ocean of the design world, and shout “Do your worst, for I shall do mine!”

Thanks to Kurt Madsen for help steering this ship.