How confidence can aid your progression in the industry: Four designers discuss how they’ve developed their self-belief
Confidence in any industry is key. We look at why it’s particularly important to creativity and chat to four designers who have actively developed theirs, sharing words of advice along the way.
Created is a completely new kind of academy, committed to giving individuals the kind of skills that creative people need to succeed in the real world. It offers a series of online courses in motion design, UX and UI offering real-world briefs combined with coaching and mentoring. We’re working with Created on a series of articles exploring the future of design education.
Confidence. We have it in some situations, and not so much in others. One thing for sure is that if you work in the creative industries (or any industry for that matter), it is an important asset to have. In order to share or present ideas, put yourself on the line, or simply to see the worth in what you’ve produced, confidence is an essential and tangible way of going further in your career. It’s an asset that has its ups and downs but hopefully, over time, improves. In an age of social media where it’s easy to focus on others’ achievements, our inner confidence can falter as a result. A lack of confidence can affect the way others see or communicate with us, but most importantly, it can also damage our relationship with ourselves. This is, for instance, seen in the rise in imposter syndrome plaguing people of all backgrounds and ages.
Created – the online academy running courses in motion design, UX and UI – understands that confidence is key when it comes to forging a healthy career. On top of this, it’s highly valued by employers, as they want to hire those with growing self-belief. Created offers technical modules, mentoring and coaching, as well as the chance to work with real industry briefs, so participants gain first-hand experience. On the one hand, the coaching offers support on skills to do with personal development while mentoring, on the other hand, sees professional designers paired up with participants to provide technical troubleshooting, career guidance and conceptual advice.
The bespoke coaching aims to brush up on students’ personal skills, allowing for more fully rounded creatives. For designer Charlotte Temple, this mentorship was vital for developing her voice. Having enrolled in Created back in March 2019, Charlotte was one of the first Motion Design students and when she first came to Created, it was public speaking that filled her with dread. “I used to feel sick at the thought of standing up in front of a room and presenting work, and honestly I still do get nervous,” she explains. “It’s over-thinking that gets in the way for me; am I coming across knowledgeable, am I making good points, do I sound nervous, do they like me, is everyone bored?!”
At Created, she was introduced to a community of people that helped build her confidence in this area, sharing practical tips and tricks but also bestowing in her a sense of self-belief. “Created has built such a supportive community, it really cares about you as a person, your experience on the course, and progress afterwards.” Singing its praises, she particularly notes how “everyone champions each other and lifts each other up.” For Charlotte, this kind of interpersonal support was paramount in boosting her confidence which, in turn, “really helped me move forward.” She acknowledges that it’s an ongoing journey though – as our confidence grows, so do the challenges we feel compelled to take on. “I think I’ll always be working on it,” Charlotte admits, but the rewards far outweigh the disadvantages. “I think the things that scare you the most also give you the biggest opportunity to grow. It sounds cheesy, but I always think about how my future self will feel once I’ve taken myself out of my comfort zone and I’m on the other side.”
“I think the things that scare you the most also give you the biggest opportunity to grow.”Charlotte Temple
Finding one’s own definition of self-confidence can also be tricky. In Charlotte’s case, when she was younger, she thought confidence was paired with being the loudest person in the room. As that wasn’t her, she felt inadequate. Now, having interacted with a community of people who showed her a different way, her thinking has shifted, and she cites curiosity and the confidence to ask questions as “much more important.” On the path to success, it’s easy to forget how everyone has to start somewhere. Over time, our experiences inform our identities, helping us to push further (or occasionally trip us up). But whatever the shape of that journey, there is sure to be growth too. Charlotte’s imparting words of advice embody this: “You just have to keep moving, ask for help when you need it, and trust your creative instinct because it got you this far.”
This brings us to Pili Enrich, a freelance motion and graphic designer, and art director. Similarly enrolling with Created back in 2019, Pili came to the online course feeling burnt out and unmotivated following a previous design job. She decided to embark on a change, starting with a move from Spain to the UK where she wanted to study. When she discovered Created, it was the mentoring services that, convinced her it was the right choice. So she signed up and met her motion design mentor Lena, who helped her with the mammoth task of building confidence. At the time, and still to this day, she admits, Pili has struggled with imposter syndrome, something she feels is prevalent across the industry: “I think now with social media it’s so easy to feel judged or to compare ourselves with other designers, as there are so many designers out there sharing their work online… But I think now this is changing, and more people are sharing their own insecurities and struggles, and this helps many of us to feel understood and not alone.”
For Pili, working with Lena allowed her to tackle her insecurities, instilling in her the belief that she belongs in the creative industry. Lena was “always kind and supportive,” she tells us, and she saved Pili from the creative block she was feeling ahead of submissions on many occasions. “She is a great professional and gave me so much good advice on how to face the work, ideas to use or even tutorials to follow,” Pili tells us. This one-to-one work, as well as her time spent interacting with the wider Created community, has helped her believe in her own skills where previously there was doubt. A major factor that helped build Pili’s confidence was the fact that this mentoring was paired with coaching, which was focussed on more tangible tools. Useful exercises like making achievable goals helped kick things off, and by the end of the course, she managed to tackle her biggest fear of public speaking head-on. Reflecting on her biggest takeaway, she says: “There is always room for improvement, but don’t compare yourself to other designers, and instead, compare yourself with yourself from the past and embrace your achievements, even the little ones, because we are all different and have our own paths.”
“Compare yourself with yourself from the past and embrace your achievements, even the little ones, because we are all different and have our own paths.”Pili Enrich
But what are the positives of being confident when it comes to establishing yourself in the creative industry? It’s clear how confidence can spur you on to face new challenges like public speaking or applying for a new job, but there are ways it can boost the technical side of your practice too. Den Salazar, a fellow Created graduate and motion graphics designer, believes “confidence can get you into the industry whether it’s an agency, brand, or working as a freelancer. It’s a skill that helps establish trust,” he says. For him, like Charlotte, it’s important to acknowledge that building your confidence is a continual process, not a one-time goal. However, unlike Charlotte and Pili, for Den, confidence is wrapped up in his ability to tackle a new kind of software or process. He loves to push himself and learn. What that often means is going through a period of uncertainty where he feels like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but the more he pushes himself, the more his confidence in his own ability grows, so he knows he can tackle any new challenge with ease. Building confidence is cyclical.
Den signed up for Created in late 2019 as a way to push his skills in motion design. “The world of design is not necessarily linear,” he says. “Companies, brands and agencies are continually looking to push their offering and what they focus on, so being ready is an important part of that journey. Confidence is also about the self-belief that you have the knowledge to deal with any problem that arises.” The creative industry is always changing. New trends, ideas, processes and materials are constantly coming into fruition, meaning designers have to be on their toes, ready for when such projects come in or when a certain client comes calling. Confidence undeniably helps creatives prepare for this.
Den’s advice to any of you feeling the niggle of self-doubt is to “get uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to something a little bit different and focus on something you are not very good at. You will make mistakes but we all do, we’re human.” He suggests setting small, short term goals in that area and then to build up from there. Crucially, he adds, you have to be patient, because it’s never a quick fix, but “putting time into building your confidence as a designer is just as important as software skills, it’s the ticket between you getting hired or not.”
Growing in confidence is not only an enhancing experience for those actively seeking it, it’s also beneficial to mentors or anyone else helping another to find their way. Freelance motion designer Alex Zepherin is a Created mentor and describes the work as “the most enriching experience.” She tells us: “Being able to see students progress and develop their skill set in real-time is such a privilege. It’s a beautiful feeling to be able to share knowledge and help others.” For the London-based creative, confidence is the root of her motivation. “Your self-belief is going to see you through any rough patches that you may come across in your journey.”
Whether you’re an industry leader or just starting out, confidence allows you to work to the best of your ability, which helps anyone achieve their goals with time. In Alex’s time at Created, she’s seen students who are held back by a fear of not being able to meet a certain standard. It’s an issue Alex understands first hand, and one she now uses to propel her forwards to become a better designer. Her advice is this: “Going for the safe route, the more traversed road, will not push you to become better.” As a trusted mentor, Alex concludes by imparting some further wisdom to anyone in need of gentle encouragement. “It’s a cliche but a proven fact that the more you practice, the better you become. Self-improvement is always a journey and sometimes it can be hard to persevere. But when it comes to learning, you will always be a better creative than you were the day before. If you keep developing, in turn, it will build your confidence.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.