As part of a project, I contacted renown Glasgow designer, Steven Bonner. Steven is a multi-discipline Designer and Illustrator currently working With D8. I wanted to find out how a well-established designer deals with the woes of self-doubt, something that often comes hand in hand with design. Steven offered some great advice, which you can check out below.
When did you get into Graphic Design? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do? (did you consider any other career path)
I’d always enjoyed art at school, and did pretty well in it so I knew I wanted to be involved in something creative. My choices changed a good few times (I seriously considered both architecture and product design) before settling on a graphic design course. To be honest, I had very little idea as to what graphic design actually was when I applied so it was a bit of a blind experiment. Sometimes I regret not going down the product design route as I get a real kick out of working on physical items, but graphic design felt like a more accessible path at the time and it’s worked out pretty well so far.
Are you currently happy with where you are in your career, would you like to advance further or stay where you are?
After a stint in the U.S. working for the advertising agency GS&P, then laterally for Stranger and Stranger, I came home to work for D8 in Glasgow as design director. I still undertake some work as an independent but I’m much more selective about what I take on now in order to maintain a good work/life balance.
I love it at D8 and have no desire to move. I was offered a few other jobs when I first moved back but had no interest in going anywhere else – D8 do great work for great clients, and I get to go home at the end of every day and spend quality time with family and friends which is something I really missed in the States. I’m not against going independent again at some point but to be honest, it’s not something I’m thinking about. At this stage in my career, I feel like I’ve got the balance right and I’m happy to keep that going as long as I can. You can do great work anywhere.
Have you ever doubted your ability as a designer? Thought you wouldn’t become successful?
I guess it depends on how you define successful, but yes, I’ve doubted myself a lot. I think it’s the standard state for pretty much all designers even if they don’t admit it but if we channel these thoughts properly, they’ll be great motivators.
How did/do you handle these thoughts.
I try not to give myself over to it and just get on with what I have to do. If you dwell on doubts for too long they’ll cripple you into inactivity. Take any doubts as a challenge, and develop a solid and logical process that you can rely on.
Plan out your career in realistic steps and aim to check off achievements as you go. They could be anything as long as you feel like you’ve reached a goal. For example, I used to set myself a six-month timeline in which I’d have a list of things I wanted to have achieved in that time. Sometimes I’d meet them, sometimes not, and the ones I didn’t meet would roll over into the next six months till I could check them off. Having goals helps you focus and ignore doubts, then the act of physically checking something off your list gives you a small, confidence improving boost. You feel like you’re getting better.
Listen to what your clients are telling you about their needs and avoid too much exposure to what other designers are doing – you’re not working for them. If you panic about what everyone else is doing, you’ll just freeze.
Learn to accept where you are now and try to take small steps forward each time. If you’re prepared to learn all the way through your career, you’ll have a better chance of having a long and full one. Take your time.