Screw Imposter Syndrome: Anyone Can Be a Designer

It’s time that we talk about imposter syndrome and designers. I know of several people, from who are doing design work right now using these tools, and they have a bit of imposter syndrome. With all of the tools out there today, often free to use, that allow for any old person to design things, it begs the question: Where is the line between a person who uses design tools and “a real designer?” I know this is a question that affects people in their lines of work, because I’m often consulted by coworkers for “my design expertise” and usually their work is just fine. Maybe the work needs a tweak for branding reasons but objectively-speaking, it’s not bad. So if the work is good, aren’t they a designer? Or is there some trick to all this that they haven’t figured out? Let’s jump in.

Do the tools make the designer? I would say that it’s great how accessible design tools have become because, frankly-speaking it’s not about the tools you use. ‘Professional’ design tools used be very expensive to acquire and learn, so there are bound to have been many potential designers cut out of the pool by those limitations. At the end of the day, all you really need to be a designer is a pencil, which everyone can get. It’s what you do with it that will define you as a creative. The idea that certain tools and training are a prerequisite is just wrong. Find the tools you like, make them your bread & butter, and you can definitely call yourself a designer.

Just as I would say that the available tools should not prevent your design calling, I also have to warn against letting tools limit your scope. Take something like Canva, which has a near-infinite array of templates to access. Odds are there is something close to what you want, but you should be able to adjust or build from scratch to get exactly what you need. That’s the difference between being a designer and just using the tools. I think a lot of people are letting the sense that they “aren’t really a designer” prevent them from diving into the tools they are using. If they would, it would be clear that design isn’t exactly rocket science.

OK, so you’re not an imposter — no matter what tools you’re using. Yay! Even so, is there a next-step to all of this? Something that can really cement your confidence? There is, and my wife says it best: Designers have taste! I don’t care that your technical skills are bare-bones if you have a great sense of the right design and you can find the perfect template. Curating a library of styles in your own mind and knowing when they are right to use is the essence of being a designer. So I’d say that if you’re concerned about your legitimacy, then spend time studying designers and looking at their portfolios. Check out magazines and websites dedicated to design and in little-to-no time you will develop that guiding sense of taste that all designers need.

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Alex Jimenez Design

Illustrator / Motion / Graphic Design. Director of Design at @prageru. Writes about design + culture. Designs & opinions are my own, not those of PragerU.