How to get Recognition for Your Design Work?

Often I get questions from designers by email on how to solve various problems they may have in their design careers. Most of the time my advice is returned via email.
This time however one of my readers, Bill, has asked a great question that I think could be something that many budding designers would have as well. Thus it would be of value if I post my advice here at Design Sojourn.
Bill asks:

…how a new designer can be sure to get credit for his/her
contributions on a project?

Ah in our ultra competitive design dog eat dog world, there is no glory or money in second place. The trick really is looking get ahead without killing or stepping over people along the way. I believe you can make it to the top without being nasty about it.
However before we get to the meat of this discussion, I need to make a few assumptions. Bill, I assume you mean getting recognition when you are working in a consultancy or an in-house design department environment correct? I don’t think this applies if you are working freelance or run your own business, as if you are hired, it means you already have recognition.

You are already recognized!
Just like getting freelance work, if you are hired to work in a consultancy or in-house design department, this means you ARE recognized as a designer that can add value to the projects or to the team. I am surprised that many designers actually fail to recognize (excuse the pun) this. You got hired, means you got selected from a pile of resumes, now its time to get to work!

Have your own style
It’s often very intimidating when working in big project teams, to work with and also stand out from the other designers in your team. Also it is pretty common for concept or project reviews to be done on walls of sketches/2d/3d project information. So how do you stand out?
A good way is to have you own style with your design presentations. It can be as simple as a unique layout, or even just sketching with color pencils when everyone else is sketching with pens. Or even developing a personal sketch style that is different from the others. People tend to do loose free hand sketches, then why not try doing something more childlike? However do keep in mind the parameters of the project and do not ever put your picture or mug shot on your presentation boards! Thats just trying too hard.

Talk about your work in design reviews
Design is about communication. So whenever you can, take the advantage to talk about your work during reviews or presentations. Don’t be shy, get up there and talk about what inspired you or your concept. This helps your design managers better understand your work, and thus getting immediate recognition if your concept gets selected by them. There is nothing stopping you from jumping in there, even if someone else is presenting your work. Again, be polite and nice about it.

Pay it forward
While you are up there talking about your work, don’t forget to pick out some great work other people have done as well. Karma moves in circles, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. Besides, the fact you are on your feet talking, and not someone else, is recognition enough.

Volunteer for project management or leadership positions
Despite many design organizations being relatively flat in management structure. There are a lot of project management and lead design work that can be done. Volunteer for them all, or what ever you can fit on your plate. Do ensure that your quality of work does not decline! Doing more means taking on more responsibility and thus getting more recognition.
Also being in charge of project management, means you get to manage the allocated billable time, and thus having all the opportunity for your work to be seen in a better light.

Find out who pays You
Find out who decides on how much you get paid and take the effort to spend some time with or him/her to them know of the work you have done. You can even make use that time to get their professional feedback on your work. I think this point is pretty much self-explanatory.

Enter design competitions and offer to manage it
If you are confident with your work, enter them into design competitions. You don’t really have to win, but the PR fallout of you entering your work is good enough. Furthermore take the effort to manage the entry process and make sure all designers that are involved are recognized. Remember Karma?

Always do good work!
Last but not least. Always, always strive to do good, no great work all the time, everytime! Nothing gets you more recognition that a portfolio of great design work done for an organization.
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I do hope this list of tips does help solves some of your issues. Please keep in touch, and do let me know if this post has been helpful or not. Best of luck to all of you in your design career.

6 Comments
  • py

    July 31, 2007 at 10:42 am Reply

    Hi DT,
    I find what you write about very true.Very good.
    Maybe just one more point to add is to also know designers from outside our ow workplace, interact and seek their design advice too. That way you can “advertise” your designs in a broader perpective.

  • […] Design Sojourn | How to get Recognition for Your Design Work? how a new designer can be sure to get credit for his/her contributions on a project? […]

  • Design Translator

    July 31, 2007 at 2:02 pm Reply

    Hi PY,
    Thanks for the good point, but do note about confidentiality issues!

  • goodshithappens

    August 1, 2007 at 7:50 pm Reply

    wow this is so good. i’m sure someone will read and benefit through it. Not that I will ever be working in a design firm though! Yet somehow I feel that it kind of applies to even normal projects that one has to undertake in the workplace. ūüôā

  • Design Translator

    August 1, 2007 at 8:59 pm Reply

    Hi GSH,
    You are absolutely correct. These tips can also easily apply to non-design professions as well! Thanks for your feedback and please keep in-touch.

  • […] Design Sojourn | How to get Recognition for Your Design Work? how a new designer can be sure to get credit for his/her contributions on a project? […]

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