How far will you go as a designer? How far do you want to go? It really depends on your focus. You can either focus narrowly on only (or mostly) skills versus focusing on a broader view of both skills and higher-level problem-solving.
Imagine the skills-only focus as a telescopic view of the sky and the broader view as a windshield. One is more focused on the tactics and techniques of design while the other focuses on the larger picture using design as the vehicle:
A skills-only focus
- Choosing good fonts
- Building competency in favorite software program
- Keeping up with graphic trends and styles
- Mastering the pen tool and pathfinder tools
- Implementing eye-catching color combinations
- Strengthening technical skills
A skills + problem-solving focus
- evaluating and understanding the larger business case
- seeing the whole puzzle versus just one piece
- idea maker vs. order taker
- using the software that’s most appropriate for the use case
- asking meaningful questions to get insightful answers
- helping to increase revenue, influence, or reach
All designers should absolutely focus on honing their skills.
Competency and implementation are key.
The designers who do that plus think more broadly about larger problems that can be solved are the ones who will evolve, get bigger projects, increase their demand/pay, etc.
It’s like knowing when to switch from a telescopic view to a wide view and vice-versa; both will be necessary to adapt to various project scenarios.
Adaptable designers who do both
- look at software as a tool and critical thinking as a muscle
- increase their competency in other areas to have a greater impact (business, marketing, project management, etc)
- utilize all of their communication skills (speaking, writing, designing)