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Why your designs are falling behind and what to do about it

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Do you ever feel like all the designers around you are somehow a notch above you when it comes to talent?

Do you ever wonder if you’re one of those “dime-a-dozen” designers that we, as a community, tend to make fun of?

Do you ask yourself: “am I at the top of my design game, or is my work lackluster and mediocre?”

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I certainly do.

I hang out on Pinterest or Dribbble and compare myself to all-star designers who, it seems, never have a hard time designing something original, creative, and outstanding.

You been there?

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Well, I had a small epiphany recently while reading a book titled The One-minute Entrepreneur.

While it may not be the most profound piece of literature I’ve ever read in my life, it definitely has a few gems and I’d like to share a spin-off of one of the principles taught in the very first chapter.

Here’s the principle:

“You are the sum total of the five people you hang out with most.”

When it comes to entrepreneurship, that means in order to be a great business-person, you should spend time around and learning from great business people.

So what does this mean as a designer?

“You are the sum total of the five designers you hang out with the most.”

Which designers do you hang out with?

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about going out for a drink, hanging out at the coffee house, or renting an office together.

You can “hang out” online, in mastermind groups, or even just through Dribbble, a forum, or some other sort of online media.

But if you’re ready to step up your game and take your design talent to the next level, it’s time to start paying attention and “hanging out” with five top-notch designers all the time.

(For starters, you can try checking out our list of 55 designers you should follow on dribbble.)

How to “hang out” with designers you don’t know

So maybe you don’t have the time or ability to actually spend time with some of your favorite fellow designers.

That’s ok.

The principle still applies.

Here are a few ways to learn from designers you want to be like:

  1. Follow them on dribbble, pinterest, or other visual social media.
  2. Subscribe to their blog, if they have one. Focus especially on designers who have inspiration feeds you admire.
  3. Take their courses, read their books, and become obsessed with any resources they create and make available.
  4. Check back frequently to view their portfolio. Take note of new projects, new styles, and new techniques.
  5. Follow their tutorials (if any) step by step to learn new skills and tricks to great design.

Try a few of these online versions of “hanging out” and you’re bound to see your design improve.

A caveat

Now, I understand that simply looking at others’ designs, following their tutorials, and subscribing to their blogs may not make you a million-dollar designer.

Part of design is simply having the natural-born talent. Some people are more blessed with natural ability to know what is right and wrong about a design, what makes a design sink or swim.

But, if you’ve already determined you’ve got something to give in the design world; if you already know you have a knack for it; this is a great way to take you ability to the next level.

Tell me who you’re going to “hang out” with

So, who are you going to start hanging out with? Who’s designs do you truly admire?

Leave a comment on this post and let’s chat.

PS: the link to The One-minute Entrepreneur in this post is an amazon affiliate link. I never promote books I haven’t read or don’t appreciate. This book is a nice quick read for any freelancer or entrepreneur. If you buy a copy, thanks for the small kickback.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

Leave a Comment



  1. I follow Studio Simon on dribbble for their (his?) absolutely awesome event/team shield-style logos. I also follow Mitch Frey on Behance for his amazing illustrations.

    I also “hang out” with fellow Millo reader Jim Adams (and follow his accounts) from the UK. He has critiqued a number of my drafts, providing valuable insight and ultimately strengthening my designs while I provide him blogging advice and tips.

    • April’s right here. With every word – A freelancers life is fairly solitary, most of my friends spend so much time working that to actually get out and network is 99 of a list of 100 so becoming active online is paramount. I talk alot with many designers, developers and SEO specialists and the information I glean off them over time a) Saves me a fortune as advice costs nothing but that advice can be worth a packet b) Improves my knowledge base on my weaker skills and c) You make a great bunch of friends that you can go to and ask for honest opinions. And boy, can they be honest haha. And yes, Aprils blogging tips are potentially the difference between success and failure in this field for me so a big heartfelt thank you goes out to you for that. Creeping over 🙂 Its hamburger an beer time haha.

      PS> If you like Illustration, find darren hopes online. One of the worlds leading illustrators and a smashing bloke to boot.

  2. This article is great!! I was surprised however not to see a shout out to joining design groups in your community. AIGA “American Institute for Graphic Arts” is one of the best clubs to join to meet new designers, and get involved in the design community nearest you. aiga.com

    I recently joined the board of directors for AIGA Colorado, and have been incredibly lucky to get connected with people like Ellen Lupton, and even hang out with some of my biggest design influences like Design Army, and Randy Hunt (etsy’s creative director)

    Thanks for all the awesome GD info- I love it! KAT

  3. Having always felt somehow inferior at everything, this feeling is very familiar as well! And an interesting view on how to get over it, but I guess it makes sense.
    Some time ago I read some advice for beginner artists / designers / other creatives telling it’s normal to feel that our work is not as good as it could. However, it was our taste which got us to doing whatever creative we’re doing, and having an aesthetic vision is important in order to be able to even improve. Then it takes hard work to make our work as good as our ambitions. And since I think that “the road to success is always under construction”, I believe there’s not only always some room for improvement but also the feeling that at least some of your fellow designers are better than you. Thus, I wouldn’t immediately get worried if you have that feeling, if you can recognize good design, you can also achieve it.

    I don’t follow many designers online, but Pinterest boards can still be very inspiring. I think I’m lazy at looking up designers to follow! I would love to see more and more interesting stuff flowing through my Behance feed too. I rather concentrate on awesome designs without knowing who created them, and I do think it’s a shame.

  4. I would say by all means follow people who inspire you but you should also try to design in your own style with your own little snippets and style and not follow trends too much. This should make your design last a little longer and although it may be slightly less fashionable it shouldn’t so quickly look old hat.

    Perhaps this is something that comes with maturity as nowadays I look at work for inspiration but always try to do my own thing. When I was younger I always wanted to follow the extreme styles (anyone remember RayGun magazine?) but now I let the young new trendsetters do the experimental stuff and try to provide a more classy design style that is aimed at the customer needs and brand values rather than the latest new design trend.

    Always look at various works for inspiration and to form your own ideas but try and always be yourself and be proud of your own particular style.

    Most of all enjoy, experiment and fingers crossed you will get clients who will go with your ideas – as long as you truly believe and can sell your ideas to the client with good reasoning, rationale (always bearing in mind target audience) and to the brief, believe in yourself and stay true to your ideas and work.

  5. Paul Boag, Boagworld/Headscape
    Web Designer magazine
    Pickle Design, Wadebridge
    Nixon Design, Hayle

  6. I tend to not follow just a couple certain designers and also with style I feel when you get locked into a certain type of style its almost as if you limit yourself. Dribble is a great place for design inspiration but after while on their it starts to have a dribble look. One thing that I learned to keep up with designing is to constantly be doing it and know things have started to go back to where they came from originally. thanks for sharing this Great post

  7. I think it’s also a great idea to hang out with some of the all trime greats: I regualrly hang out with the late Alan Fletcher through the series of design books he wrote during his life (‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ is a constant source of inspiration for me).

  8. I always love to see what this French designer makes and gathers:

  9. Great advice…. I agree that your only as good as the people who surround you. If you hire talented designers, it will reflect in your business and in the work you produce.

  10. Do unique and clean things to stand out your designs with success.


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