How designers can shape their future for the long term

When you’re studying design at university, tech, school etc, you’re constantly challenged with questions like:

“There are so many options…What is the right area of design for me?”

With today’s creative industry growing rapidly and with design becoming more multi-disciplinary it can be tough to narrow down what path you want to take your future. A way to ensure you get the best out of your education is to think of it as building a pyramid.

Education Pyramid

Just like building a pyramid, you need a broad foundation of knowledge to create the building blocks before you start going up. During this time you will discover your areas of strength and will start to explore further, so eventually when you reach the top of the pyramid you will have found what your strongest skills in design are. The pyramid diagram above shows the type of stages you might identify when making your creative career path a reality.

Stage 1: Establishing the foundations:

The foundations are really important! You should ensure that you have explored  a wide variety of options and learnt as much as possible before trying to progress further up. You might have interests in areas like graphic design and photography but you also want to get involved in trying some coding or industrial design. That is completely fine! In fact it is fantastic you want to try something out of your comfort zone. Being in education is the perfect risk free environment to try and learn as much as possible before trying to progress.

By trying out a wide variety of options, you’ll begin to discover what different design disciplines are out there. Some of these are areas you will enjoy and want to pursue further. Others you will find aren’t for you. Even if it’s something you find you don’t enjoy, you will have learnt something new. The idea is to identify who you are as a designer, where your strengths are and gain as much experience as you possibly can in these early days.

Stage 2: Establishing your chosen subject

Once you have gained a breadth of exposure into a wide range of design disciplines (generally after a year or two in education, but this can vary) you can start thinking about what areas you want to specialise in.

When you have chosen your area of interest, start researching the different skills required and the types of experience employers look for in a particular space. For example in post-production, you can start picking up new skills in motion graphics with tools like After-Effects or Cinema 4d. Or if the digital space isn’t what you’ve decided to hone in on, industrial design has some amazing results being produced in 3D printing and furniture design.

Whichever design space you lean towards, start researching and learning about the skills and career options you can go down to establish a strong portfolio of work ahead of the game. Each design discipline has a lot of amazing things happening that you can learn about and explore to make you a much more knowledgeable person in your field of choice.

3: Growing to be a specialist

When you’ve explored as much as you can in the subject area you’ve chosen, it’s time to let the world know what you can do. You’ve found the right area in the industry that is perfect for you and now you can focus on chasing your dreams and producing fulfilling work. Whether it’s being a user-interface designer and working on the look and feel of digital products, or being a graphic designer working on marketing material, you can successfully enter a project and know that you have found your true calling in the creative world through a solid foundation of skills and experiences.

By viewing your career as a journey that needs to be built brick by brick, you will be building up to establishing a stronger future with clearer goals. This may take time and everyone will have different experiences along the way, so don’t try and rush it. This is an ongoing process through your entire career that you want to perfect.


Michael Szeto is a designer focusing on UI/UX Design and Front End Development. After completing a Bachelor of Design Innovation in Digital Media Design at Victoria University in 2014, he is now working full time as a junior designer. You can see some of his past work at www.michaelszeto.co.nz