10 Things Every Designer Should do (at least once)...

Been thinking lately about what life experiences would make the best designer (skills aside).

A not too serious list, for discussion (in no particular order)-

  1. Make/Fix something for your own use
  2. Get fired
  3. Bring a product to market, with your own money
  4. Start your own consultancy
  5. Pitch/sell an idea to investors
  6. Work corporate
  7. Work in a consultancy
  8. Live/Work in a different country
  9. Teach
  10. Work on a royalty or equity basis

Thoughts? These are just off the top of my head, nothing too serious or meant to be all encompassing. I can’t say I’ve done all myself, and not sure how many designers have, but think at the very least it’s an interesting thought experiment and maybe a start of a life guide for designers to consider how those experiences other than the usual skills/jobs can affect a designer’s outlook.


Quick thought is that except for #1 the list could be applied to any profession/discipline/market, not just design. But #1 is a good one, maybe there are off-shoots to that:

  • Make something completely from scratch.
  • Disassemble something completely to components. Draw each part.

I’m 5 for 10 on your list. I still have time to catch up though.

  • paint a self portrait
  • build a house
    (Courtesy of Fight Club)

I got fired at least ten times, does that make up for the other nine things? :laughing:

What, like a build a shelf? Or paint a fence? Out of all those 10 I would figure #1 is the most universal across not only any profession, but any human on earth. That’s pretty much all people talk about after summer vacation, things they’ve been working on for the house/summer cabin.

Damn I should have dealed with the “get fired” part earlier in my career.

Great Topic!

  1. Have kids and take responsibility for them.


P.S. My main role model is an ancient uncle of mine, who had the misfortune to stay on the eastern side of the wall. First he had to make his own tools, than he had to convert his self constructed roadster into a milk truck.
When the wall came down he was already in retirement but took full use of the new opportunities when building two boats in his shed. Ask his wife what she thinks of glasfiber and you know why the second one happens to have an aluminium hull. :wink:


What was I supposed to learn from getting fired? I think that was the first moment that I started thinking, “adults are much more incompetent than I thought.”

yeah, a good firing really changes you!

How about “develop a distinct style”

Come up with a cool signature

I’m 8 for 10. 9 for 10 if you loosely define “Teach”.

I also agree 100% with mo-i’s #11. Opened a completely new avenue of problem solving.

slipperyfish’s “Make something completely from scratch.” reminds me of the toaster project and how the notion of “I built it myself” is bullsh!t.


And if I were to add one, hold a job outside of design, preferably where you work with your hands.

Get fired and work on a royalty/equity basis are the only two I haven’t done. Although, I count working for equity as when my company went through a rough patch a while back…that’s all I was working for. I also disagree with this in principle. The only time you should work for equity is when you are controlling your own destiny. Not someone else.

Having done the kids thing, I disagree. People take having kids too lightly and watching the amount of dumbass parents around me (not excluding myself), I definitely do not encourage everyone to have them. I lean towards the side of thinking that parenting should require a license or something.

My add…since this is asking about designers…all designers should hold a sales job, or go through sales training.

I second the sales idea.

Another, all designers should go to visit an asian factory. Going to the factories 3-5 times a year for 8 years taught me so much. It is one thing to intellectually understand a manufacturing process, and another to observe it in person. Also to understand the labor that goes into finishing and assembly.

I second the being in a factory. In fact, I’ve always wanted to try to actually make the products I have others make myself. I would love to do every step in the production line just to get a feel for what is involved. I’m sure my quality would be terrible, but nice to know it’s not as easy as it looks.

Kids I think are overrated in Design value :wink:


Been a while since I last posted, but still an avid lurker/browser…

I can vouch for #2 on the list. Though that can be broken down in two categories:

  1. Getting fired
  2. Getting laid off

I’ve had the dubious pleasure of being on the receiving end of both of those and while at that moment it doesn’t matter which of the two it actually is, (its still a kick in the teeth), you can at least make peace with #2 by knowing that it wasn’t personal and probably not any reflection on you as a professional.

#1 is trickier. A lot of soul searching / self examination is required, but the sting of this too can be eased over time by keying in on what happened and what you could have done better. Accept responsibility for those things you did wrong and learn from them.

Either way, it can be devastating at the time, but in the long run can serve to give you some valuable experience and hopefully make you a better person/designer/employee.

This is what I had in mind. It forces you to do some self-analysis and re-evaluation of your goals. I think is healthy.

A lot can come from experiences that are both positive and negative

Same goes for my idea of working for equity or bringing your own product to market. It may be a success or a complete failure, but either way I’m sure you’d learn something (I haven’t done either, BTW, but have heard great stories from people who have and have come out stronger no matter which way things went).


it can make you much more self reliant in the long run too - a kick in the rear toward what you really want to be doing

a negative end can teach you some important office lessons too

totally agree about the factory experience. It’s surprising how little you go in some positions and how often in others

One more, for all people imo: take a personal finance class or meet an advisor. One of the best classed I ever took

+1 for factory visits and gaining a deeper understanding of the manufacturing process.

You can go all the way to Asia and watch minimum wage in action, OR spec something to be made domestically, visit the factories, and actually work on the assembly line. Find yourself actually cursing your brilliant idea to hide all the mechanical fasteners.

I sort of got fired, my boss saw that I had “quit job” on my desk candler and to-do list for the last three weeks. I told him why, he wasn’t able to help, so we separated.

I’d say (and this is personal) falling in love (more so the heartbreak) helped me be a better designer. No idea why, maybe I became more empathetic?

I’d guess knowing how to put things together and take them apart has helped but I have been doing that my whole life.

Working in a foundry helps me understand / appreciate how things are made.

Why does the factory have to be in asia?

mo- i