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When it Comes to Design How do you Define Success

By Char

define-successSuccess is such an intangible concept! How do you even define success? Is success based on how much money you make or is it defined by the satisfaction you get from your work? Lauren Marie and Tara were discussing the concept and decided to start a meme about it. Basically, they want to know “when do you consider yourself a successful designer?”

Personally, I am extremely flattered that I was tagged twice for this one, because there are days where I seriously doubt my title of “designer”. Thank you Tara and Lisa Sabin-Wilson for the tag.

1. How did you get started in the business?

At a former employer, I was known for irritating the publications department to no end when I refused to follow their boring WordPerfect guidelines. I was a rebel and used Microsoft Word – I added white space, graphics, changed up fonts – real cutting edge stuff, you know.

Once my first child was born (almost 11 years ago) I couldn’t bear the thought of putting him in daycare so I decided to find a way to work from home. (read the entire saga here) I did a lot of MS Word document support, desktop publishing and a bit of logo design. Mind you I was completely self-taught (just like Lisa).

As my client list grew and the internet became more popular, I started to build web sites, too. When challenges arose, I did the research and found a way to do it myself. Like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it.

2. What kept you going in those early years?

In the early years I kept going by taking a variety of projects – many that I didn’t really enjoy, but they were projects I could do from home at my own pace and they paid the bills.

The other thing that has always kept me going is just the desire to keep trying new things and the challenge of a new project.

3a. Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or you would never make it in this industry?


3b. How did you work through that?

One of the things that has helped me get through times of self-doubt is my constant need for learning. I try to take client criticisms and tweak requests as opportunities to learn. For a time I kept a folder of designs and ideas that I liked. It really helped me get focused and develop my own style.

4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?

Everyday. But then I step back and remind myself that we each have our own style. I know my clients and what they need. If I don’t feel that I can give my clients the level of design that fits their specifications and budget, I have a list of other designers I can call on for assistance and/or collaboration.

5. How do you measure success?

Measuring the success of a designer is so tough. If the client or audience you are designing it for is happy, then you have been successful. If you continue to get requests for work, then you must be successful. Awards and accolades from your peers are nice, too. And of course, if you can make a living as a designer, then success is the right word.

6. By your standard, do you think you are successful?

I have been very fortunate to develop a steady flow of clients and work over the past 11 years. Due to my skills, I have been able to work from home and make more money than I could working for a local employer. Since I have reached the point where I could not afford to STOP designing and working from home, I must consider myself successful.

Everyone is welcome to join in this meme, but there are a few other designers I am going to personally invite:




Thanks for taking part, its fascinating reading how you started off and progressed.

I admire the fact that you are self taught, it must have been quite scarey at the beginning when you weren’t quite sure how to do things on live jobs? It took me about 12 years of working full time as a designer until I was brave enough to go it alone.


Tara – sometimes ignorance is bliss! As far as calling myself a designer, I don’t really. Designers are people like you, David Airey, Veerle, etc. I am just someone who has figured out how to design decent websites for clients.


Well done for getting it written! :) I like this meme – it works well in conjunction with David’s ‘face behind’ one, in that together they pretty much tell the whole story about designers who blog…


Paul – thanks – I agree – it is like Face Behind the Blog Part 2.


I enjoyed reading that, Char.

As for your comment about not calling yourself a designer? You are! I second Tara’s sentiments in that respect is due for self-teaching yourself and making a success of it.

Well done.


Thanks David. While I may be a designer, I put others like yourself in a completely different league. By having others to look up to, we can challenge ourselves to achieve greater things.


Some very good points made here. I especially enjoy the point: “4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?” It’s tough starting out and seeing all these amazing designers. You just constantly have to remind yourself that it takes practice, effort, and concentration.


Oh goodie, now I don’t have to think about what to write about tomorrow! Thanks Char! :)


Lara – you are absolutely right. The other thing to keep in mind is that we each have our own style.

Brian – glad I could help! I can’t wait to read your entry.


Continued success, more power to you. I would love to be creative and work from home. If you, or any other designers, have any WordPress themes that they would like to share, they can drop by my site and submit their designs.


That was a very inspirational read. And thanks for all those links to business mom-related sites.
Hopefully one day I’ll be working from home full time as well.


The success is relative. I won’t search for it, I will let success to find me…


Char, I haven’t forgotten, just wanted to get another post up first!


skarld – thanks! I’ll be sure to remember that. I haven’t designed any WP themes from scratch yet – I just modify them a lot.

inspirationbit – If you really want to work from home full time, it can be done – you just have to be creative about it.

Respiro – I like your site! Thanks for stopping in.

Brian – you are a busy guy! When ever you have time, we’d love to read your insights, but we can be patient.


[...] Airey’s post Paul Enderson’s post Char’s post Vivien’s [...]


[...] Char (Essential Keystrokes) – When it Comes to Design How do you Define Success [...]


This one inspired me– as I’m just now learning about website design and teaching myself!


More wise words from a successful designer. Thank you for these responses. I think you are the only one so far (that I’ve read) to point out that you have a list of people you know you can call for help or collaboration on a project. Interesting idea! Everyone is noting how much of becoming successful is being willing to go out and learn things on your own. I guess I chose the right profession because I love expressing my creativity through design and I am forever enchanted by learning knew things, be it skills, facts or people.


LaurenMarie – thanks for inspiring this group writing project! It has been very interesting.


[...] Next? I have been tagged by Char and will be answering the six questions from her When it Comes to Design How do you Define Success [...]


[...] I was tagged by Char, and am being forced (reluctantly) to answer some questions regarding achieving success as a designer. I say reluctantly because I had to say that I am having [...]


[...] I was tagged by Char, and am being forced (reluctantly) to answer some questions regarding achieving success as a designer. I say reluctantly because I had to say that I am having [...]


[...] I was tagged by Char, and am being forced (reluctantly) to answer some questions regarding achieving success as a designer. I say reluctantly because I hate to say that I am having [...]


i am also a self-taught graphic designer and have a decent sized client list. it is pretty easy to learn the common graphic design problems that face clients in their search for a better solution, and with the help of google, colleagues the vast amount of resources available in the area of online journalism, it is really pretty easy to break into without a college education compared to other fields.

pinpointing the customer’s needs is really the starting point of any good project and lasting relationship. being ‘in the zone’, — when you are in there you are, you got it.

it’s like developing anything, when you are good you get better and when you get better everyone wins. you do need to know what you are doing though.


[...] Char from Essential Keystrokes taught herself to design and build websites [...]


I really appreciate your story. I am also a designer and can understand the situations you described in this article. Glad to hear that it ended favorably. Keep up the good work.

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