Finding your voice in the design community

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If the online design community were an actual city, it would be a thriving metropolis. Complete with skyscrapers, huge arenas and enormous shopping centers. But as in any large community, the value of the community lies in each person–each individual, contributing member.Sometimes you may feel like all the “skyscraper” designers crowd out your little back-alley shop or street-corner soapbox.
Perhaps you blog and tweet trying to share your opinion in the design community but people figuratively walk by, occasionally dropping a few cents into your comment-jar and then get on their way.
So how can you find your voice in the design community and get people talking about your conversations? It all has to do with genuineness and persistence.

Be Genuine

First, be genuine. When you leave comments on a popular design blog, don’t leave the comment just to promote your content or share your business information. Genuinely contribute to the conversation. Offer your view on the subject: if you agree, tell why and then add more insight. If you disagree, explain the opposing view and defend it well.

In addition to being genuine when commenting on other design blogs and content, be genuine in what you write about. If you are genuinely passionate about “75 egg beater designs that will blow your mind”, then blog about it. If you’re just doing it, however, to grow traffic on your site, perhaps you want to rethink your strategy. People are more likely to remember you and contribute to your conversation if you blog about issues that actually mean something to people.

The key to being genuine is to invest your emotions in your content.

Be Persistent

I recently had a colleague who asked me why I thought his blog wasn’t taking off as quickly as he has planned. He had written a guest article on a popular design blog and thought that this would lead to the magical instant growth of his own site. While actions like writing a guest post can have great impacts on your site, they most likely will not fuel your traffic forever. You have to be consistent in contributing information that really matters to the design community.

Becoming someone who has a voice in the design community is not an overnight achievement. It takes months and years to generate your own spot in any community–and the online design community is no different. I personally have been blogging about design for quite a while, and I am just now starting to see real fruits of my labors.

It’s okay to be the little guy

Sometimes I see designers get really worked up because they aren’t generating traffic to their blog or they aren’t popular in the community. The fact of the matter is, it’s okay to be the little guy every once and a while. You most likely got into design in the first place because you like to be a little different: creative and unique. So why are you worried so much about fitting in with all the other designers on the internet? Enjoy what you do and try to realize that blogging about design and being a major player in the design community may not be for everyone. Find your niche and sit back and enjoy it.

A few more tips on finding your voice

Finding your voice in the design community is a complicated challenge. In addition to the information above here a few more tips on finding your voice in the online design community.

  • Be unique. Don’t write about what everyone else is writing about. Find a unique angle on popular topics.
  • Claim a niche. GDB is a place where designers can learn to master the “business of design”. What is your special niche?
  • Give more to the community than you expect to get back. Content that helps designers grow and become better are the most successful.
  • Instead of tweeting about the temperature of your pizza, when you share content on social media, make sure you share useful and valuable information.

What else have you found to be successful?

Before leaving, share with us your opinion on the matter. What have you done to successfully find your voice in the design industry?

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Preston, nice write up about finding your own voice! It is always difficult in the vastness that is the internet to get yourself heard or even on the radar. I think that when i share information it is to share insight with the community and to promote, but mainly i do it to just be a better observer, thinker and creator of design.

    To your point, I think being genuine is the biggest thing. It helps when people like to come back to you based on your specific voice and how you view things..

    just my 2¢…

    take care

  2. I have been in the design field for a while now, but I am just now getting started with social media and bogging. I’ve never utilized these tools before, but I’m glad that I decided to give it a shot because the info I can gather is priceless. I am also in the process of redesigning my site and thinking of incorporating a blog. Posts like this are great for people like me who are just getting going in the blogging world.

    Nice work!

  3. There is no doubt that finding your own voice is very difficult. Authenticity and Patience go a long way.
    People can generally see through someone who isn’t being genuine – even online you can only hide for so long.
    Also, don’t expect to be an overnight success. While some blogs explode in a matter of months, most have taken a year or more (sometimes longer) of hard work to get to where they are. More often than not, there is no easy route.

  4. I really like how you use the analogy of a city. Very clever, but I think it paints the picture perfectly.

    I know exactly how it feels when first starting out. It seems like nobody is listening to you, and when you do get started, that’s probably true. But sooner or later, if you put time and effort into it and you really show people how passionate you are about it, you’ll start turning heads, people will start to listen and follow, and before you know it, your little “mom and pop shop” will be filled with happy customers. ;)

    “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

    -Judy Garland

  5. Preston, this is excellent. It’s great for people like myself who are just starting on their path to know exactly how to move forward – with a genuine, positive and passionate “face” online.

    Honestly, I couldn’t think of any other way to engage other designers and community members other than sharing openly my thoughts and discussing the feedback given – it just seems a natural way to behave. Besides, trolling is so ’00s!

  6. Spot on! I especially like your comment “It’s OK to be the little guy”. I have never understood the drive to be ‘popular’ in the design community – this is not High School. :D

    I’m of the opinion, as a freelancer, that the ultimate goal should be to become popular with your customers – present and future, to focus on your work and to do it well. Honestly, I could care less if I’m “heard” in the design community or not, I’m too busy working on real projects. That’s not to say that the design community is not a valuable resource, and a great ‘place’ to make connections and new friends. One is never too old, or too educated, to learn something new, especially from one’s peers. ;)

    • @Anne, This is so true! I think a lot of designers lose focus of what they want to do with their careers. If you love to design, focus on finding customers and managing projects.

      If you love to write, spend a lot of your time blogging and contributing to the online community.

      But ONLY do what will help you achieve your goals in the end.

      Thanks for the great addition. Cheers.

  7. Awesome Preston! Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for the reminder to be persistent and be genuine.

  8. I think being genuine is certainly the way to go. People will know if your are passionate about what you do and being passionate about an area of design requires a genuine love. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  9. Great post, it is difficult to find a voice in what can sometimes be considered a saturated market. Finding a niche is surely a great perspective but can be difficult. Thankfully with new technology emerging daily it’s not impossible. Great post!

  10. Thanks Man, this was a great read. I really needed to hear this, thanks a bunch!

  11. This has been an inspiring read for me. As a designer who is just now starting my own blog, I’ve been feeling like I’m coming a little late to the party. I’ve been fascinated to find this large online design community. As a freelance designer who is used to the collaboration of a team of designers in an agency, I often miss that dynamic in the confines of my home. It’s comforting to know that this community is out here. Makes me realize my “back-alley shop” really is nestled in the “thriving metropolis”. I just hope I can find my voice as well as you clearly have! Great post!

  12. Great article, Preston. I like the part about it’s OK to be the little guy. When I got on Twitter a while back, I was all worried about having such a low “follower” count because I thought people would deem me to be a nobody. Now it turns out that having something interesting to say and caring about people is more important than a number. I should have known that to begin with.

    Cheers, Jared

  13. Sam Evanson says:

    Thanks Preston, some good words there. I have been in ‘The Game’ for about a year and have had to learn fast. I think being genuine and having some integrity can really reflect well in this industry. Nice article.

  14. I’ve been the little guy for 20 years so I must be doing really well! All good advice, though. Thank you!

  15. I’m not sure I’ve found my voice yet, but as I read articles I try to write a short note about it. If I run across something I agree or don’t agree with, I may write a little more but from my viewpoint. I try to blog or tweet about networking articles I follow to give others a chance to read how it’s done (or to disagree). My hope is those who have chosen to follow me have found some value, and I am committed to continue providing as much value as possible.

  16. Good article, nice read. And now for my 2 cents:

    It can be quite overwhelming, starting in the online designer metropolis that you mention. When a new designer comes online to add to the community for the first time, there are so many great places to look and that gives out the impression that it shouldn’t be so hard to establish yourself.

    But soon enough it becomes obvious that there are literally hundreds of thousands that have tried, and eventually stayed back in the suburbs because there was no way they could make it in the city. This can be very discouraging.

    This is why I like articles like this one. I’m fresh off the boat myself. But in this city, people are more than welcome to give you advice and tell how they did it with a few basic things: persistence, passion and an open mind.

  17. Thanks for the articl. It can be really hard to break into the industry! I’ll definitely give your tips a try and bookmark this page!

    Keep writing, cheers!

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  1. […] you manage your SEO properly) by potential clients. Lastly, as you build your reputation and find your voice in the design community, other designers are more likely to approach you with projects they need help with which translates […]

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