There is more to being a designer. Your overall success is dictated by more than just what is in your portfolio.
Good communication is a cornerstone of good design. After all, design is about visual communication. You have to go beyond the visual and communicate well, both in writing and verbally, to be able to get your ideas across to clients and employers.
At the end of the day it matters less about it “looking cool”, and more about its ability to close sales. This is something that many designers learn the hard way throughout the course of their career
While it is not always necessary to be able to draw in order to be a designer, it doesn’t hurt. Additionally, strong drawing skills will set you apart from the crowd and make your life as a designer much easier. Being able to develop ideas and concepts before you get to the computer is important, so that when you do go digital you’re not overwhelmed by the tools and options available. Being able to handle drawing with pencil and paper means that when you get to the computer, you will be executing on your ideas instead of staring at a blank screen that matches the blank you’re drawing in your mind.
Networking also allows you to connect with other people in your industry or in the creative services world in general. These individuals may be able to pass along information or resources that can help you, introduce you to people in a position to create some other value for you, or act as a mentor.
Research and Planning Skills
Something often overlooked by designers is the importance of good research, as well as strategic planning. Delivering quality design work is about more than just creativity—it’s also about context. You can’t design something with the proper context in mind for the audience if it is subject matter you are unfamiliar with or uninterested in.
In terms of planning, you need to have a workflow and strategy for approaching each project. Knowing the steps from beginning to end and being able to adapt them as needed for each situation is going to make your work more efficient and cause you less anxiety about deadlines. Being in a position to breakdown your process for a client or employer is also going to give them less anxiety as well.
Empathy is probably the best kept secret to being a good designer. The ability to empathize with your clients and their struggles, as well as those of the end user/customer, ensures that you are making design decisions with the right intent.