Essential soft skills for designers

Being a visual genius and having a killer portfolio is, at this day of age, not enough to get you hired. You need the soft skills to stand out. Let’s go through some of those skills and discuss why they are so essential.

This is a photo of a white feather.

ou have hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are typically quantifiable and can be easily defined and evaluated, like computer programming for an IT professional or wood framing for a carpenter. Soft skills, on the other hand, are people skills. These are much harder to define and evaluate; they include communication skills, listening skills, and empathy, among others. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts with others.

Ask questions

If you want to be taken seriously at companies when it comes to high-level decision making, you need to question everything. Instead of just accepting every task you’re given, ask what problem it is going to solve. Asking the right questions will not only make you a better designer, but it will help you lead a proper business conversation, and eventually, you’ll get that seat at the table.

An illustration of a speech bubble with a couple of question marks.
An illustration of a speech bubble with a couple of question marks.

Be curious

A designer that isn’t always on the lookout for knowledge won’t grow. But don’t worry, if you’re not curious by nature, you can still develop this skill. You can apply some practices like; saying yes to new learning opportunities, being more open to failure (don’t forget, you’re always learning!), seeking out new opportunities and challenges, and avoiding routine and repetition.

An illustration of a magnifying glass on top of an eye.
An illustration of a magnifying glass on top of an eye.

Think holistically

Always focus on the whole; don’t get caught up by the details. This attitude will help you avoid bias, understand the source of the problem, and help you make better decisions. Make a habit of continuous learning and development. Be critical, and always ask why and why not. Never make assumptions, and always listen actively. Being able to see the bigger picture of situations will make you a great designer.

An illustration of binoculars.
An illustration of binoculars.

Stay humble

Not an easy attitude to master, especially at the beginning of your career, but letting go of your ego is essential to succeed as a designer. By spending more time listening to others, asking for help when needed, and seeking feedback from others regularly, you will be trusted, respected, be more ethical, and be able to accept critique more openly.

An illustration of a smiley face.
An illustration of a smiley face.

Explain clearly

Perhaps the most important quality hiring managers are looking for; the ability to speak clearly and communicate the thinking process. When you present your work, you may encounter questions like how you came to the solution, whether you considered alternatives, or whether there can be consequences to your solution, and more. If you can answer all of them, you’ll leave a better sense of how you think, and your hiring chances will be higher.

An illustration of a speech bubble.
An illustration of a speech bubble.

Some extra tips 🎁

  • Actively support your peers; this will help you strengthen relationships and build a connection through helping and supporting one another.
  • Try to over-communicate; explain, and (re-explain) what you are working on so others can trust you.
  • Be confident, don’t doubt yourself. Otherwise, the doubt is going to reflect in your work. When you present a project, you will easily get carried away with other people’s opinions and criticism.

I’m Semih, and I am a Product Designer creating digital experiences for mission-driven people. I also post a lot of UI & UX related insights on Instagram.

A digital designer creating functional and delightful experiences that solve real human problems.