How To Become A Designer

You Are A Designer

 Good news everyone!

An old friend reached out to me recently to discuss a design project for a new company they’ve been working on. We’ve had a few great meetings, I love the project and I’m excited to work on it. What it represents to me though is something more significant: a change in attitude. This project is the result of my work the past 6  or 7 months to not only project myself as a designer to my peers and across social networks, but to actually believe in myself. This is an important shift, going from someone who can do design, to someone who is a designer. 

To anyone out there who may be reading that is just getting started as a freelance designer, this may be the biggest and most significant hurdle you need to jump, but holy shit you need to jump it. It’s not only a confidence boost for yourself, but this naturally rubs off on others too, and they to, see you as a designer. When that happens, the door is open, you’re in. Get to work. 

I’ll be posting up the work I’ve been doing soon. 

Thanks for reading! If you don’t know me, I’m a graphic designer from Belfast, chronicling my journey into building a graphic design career. If you enjoyed this post, or any others, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or if you really want, hire me! 


First thoughts: Affinity Designer for iPad

After much anticipation, Serif Labs launched Affinity Designer for iPad. If you’ve been following along with this blog, you might have noticed my interest in utilising iPad as a design tool. I’ve seen a lot of potential for the iPad as a legitimate tool for designers to carry with them at all times for a while now, but as I wrote back in March it really does depend on the software. Well, it’s safe to say that that software has arrived in the form of Affinity Designer.

Affinity Designer comes from an established and successful development team — Serif Labs. Serif have already got a suite of existing apps in the form of Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for Mac and Windows. These apps, are not only truly competitive with the design tools from Adobe, but they only require a one off payment, (in the case of Designer for iOS - currently only £13.99!) something the team are clearly very proud of, as creatives around the world grow continually frustrated with Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription based model. 

For the last few months, I’ve been using Vectornator Pro, a free piece of software that I wrote extensively about. It’s great. It runs well with few bugs or crashes, its interface is easy to navigate, and it’s updated frequently by its developers. For free software, it’s hard to ask for more and you can accomplish a lot with it. Affinity Designer however, brings with it powerful features, and polish, that only having an large and experienced team can really bring.

Serif have really pushed the iPad Pro to its limits, utilising Apple’s ‘Metal’ software tools to squeeze out great performance. It does work on older and less powerful iPads, but if you are considering it for doing professional work, you’re going to want an iPad Pro to run it.

They’ve also considered how you interact with a touch screen, adding gestures to the interface, like holding down two fingers and tapping an object to duplicate it, or swiping up and down on the point size of text to change its size - to create a more complete experience instead of simply porting a design built for mouse and keyboard input. Coupled with an Apple Pencil, which works for both illustration and and selecting those often tiny anchor points, it all makes for a really great experience using Affinity Designer, particularly if you have a larger 12.9” iPad Pro. 

What can’t you do?  

This question is easier to answer that ‘What Can You Do?’  - if you have used a vector app before, you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with when you open Designer. This is a huge positive for a multitude of reasons. For starters, it’s great to know that you are not being limited by choosing Affinity, also you can rest easy that with just a few hours, you can establish a workflow similar to the one you’ve been used to. This is always a big sticking point for creatives switching software, the idea of losing skills that you’ve spent year becoming proficient in, is daunting, yet I found Affinity instantly familiar.

The largest drawback I have came across so far with Affinity Designer and their Photoshop alternative Affinity Photo, is not being able to support smart layer within PSD files. As a designer, Mockups are a huge part of presenting work to clients, and not being able to use these in Photo or Designer is a draw back. At the minute, I’m currently doing all the designing on my iPad, and then opening the files on my MacBook (which sync automatically via iCloud Drive) and finish off the presentation there. Furthermore, Designer cannot export .ai files for Adobe Illustrator. It can handle opening them, but will save them in their own format, or export them into a a number of different formats, such as .eps and .svg, which can be reopened again in Illustrator with everything intact. 

I’m sure there are more features that more seasoned Illustator users will miss, but for a huge amount of designers, Affinity Designer ticks all the boxes. If I come across any others, I’ll update this post.

Stand Out Features

While Designer is a fully featured app, there are a few stand out tools that make it a joy to use. For starters, it uses two different ‘personas’ for working in. The primary Vector persona for the majority of your work, but also a Pixel persona, which adapts the tools available to ones for colouring and painting and brushes, much more like Procreate.

  Different artboards together allows for great project management.

Different artboards together allows for great project management.

Another feature I’m really happy to see is the ability to not only use artboards, but also have them automatically shaped to the sizes of popular devices (iPhones, for example) make for really some really clever layout tools. Couple this, alongside what Serif call Constraints, a feature that automatically resizes items on an artboard to another artboard of a different size (for example, an iPhone app layout to an iPad App layout) and you have a magnificent App for doing Interface design.


Everything else you’d want to see is there, but if you’re still in doubt that this app elevates the iPad to a new level for Pro users, I’d reccomend watching some of the tutorial videos they have posted on their website, to give you a clearer idea of how great the app is.

In summary... 

In summary, if you’re a designer, this app is absolutely worth the asking price. In my opinion, it’s best used on a 12.9” iPad Pro, with an Apple Pencil in your hand. Don’t be afraid of the workflow you’ve built over the years, Affinity does a great job of feeling refreshing, but familiar enough to get using right away. It’s incredibly powerful and very feature rich, and at it’s current price of £13.99, it’s a steal. 



Thanks for reading! If you don’t know me, I’m a graphic designer from Belfast, chronicling my journey into building a graphic design career. If you enjoyed this post, or any others, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or if you really want, hire me!

Designing your Design Portfolio

It goes without saying that every designer needs a portfolio of their work that potential employers or clients can view. In the next few months I'm planning on working on my portfolio (with the aim of making it the landing page on this site) and I wanted to plan it out in advance, looking at what a portfolio is actually used for, how it should look, what it should include are all questions that I need to answer before beginning work on it.

To start with, I need to answer a few questions:

  • What is the point of a portoflio?
  • Who is my portfolio for?
  • What should my portfolio communicate?
  • How should my portfolio communicate this?

Once I've answered these questions, I can begin designing my portfolio's layout.

What's the point of my portfolio?

The point of any portoflio is to showcase your previous work, whether or not it was done for clients or personal is dependant on your situation, but before anyone is going to hire you, you need to communicate that you are worth hiring. I’d like my portfolio to be a central place to find my best work, as well as highlighting other things, like how to get in contact with me, or where to find more work on social media platforms like Behance or Instagram.

Who is my portoflios Audience? 

This is a hugely important part of designing a portfolio, and should be the foundation of a successful portfolio. There are two audiences for my work; potential clients for freelance work, and potential employers at agencies. A potential client will most likely be looking for striking work that is representative of the work need, or even inspire them to try something new — if someone is opening a coffee shop and wants a logo designed, they might want to see previous branding and logos, particularly for existing restaurants or coffee shops. This instills confidence that you can deliver the work that they want. Employers at design agencies however will want to see technical abilities, finished work and maybe even processes showing how you arrived at your finished pieces.  

What Should my Portfolio Communicate?

This is where having your own portoflio can really work in your benefit. It is your opportunity to control the messaging about you and your own brand. Your portoflio should communicate a clear and concise message about who you are, and what type of work you can deliver, and I think should also be incredibly focused on the type of work you want to get. If you want to do digital work, your portfolio should reflect this, if branding is your thing, then show your branding projects. I would like mine to communicate my abilities and passion for logos, branding and illustration. I’d also like it communicate an obvious attention to detail, and thoughtfulness in your work and how it’s presented. 

How Should my portoflio communicate this? 

This question will vary greatly depending on the type of work you do, and the type of work or job you want to get. Personally, I’ll be using this website to host my work. I’m still working on the details of how to lay out my portfolio, and what should be and shouldn’t be included, but again I would draw attention to the importance of focus. I want to be drawing in clients or potential employers who want branding and logo design, or illustration. 

If you have any thoughts on what to include in a portfolio, or what not to include, or even ideas on how  to layout a portfolio successfully, please get in touch and let me know.

Thanks for reading! If you don’t know me, I’m a graphic designer from Belfast, chronicling my journey into building a graphic design career. If you enjoyed this post, or any others, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or if you really want, hire me!