“I have no idea what I’m doing”

I didn’t go to design school. Truth be told, I fell into this whole design thing by accident.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that, each time I had to design something (a project, CD cover for my band, or even wedding invitations for relatives), it was because there was nobody else who was available or willing. The task fell to me almost by default, and I had to learn on my feet. Quickly.

When it came to designing for the fledgling web (a whole other challenge, as I’m sure you are aware), that too was an accident. One day, I decided to open the source code of a site I was visiting in Notepad to see if I could make sense of it all. I learned by breaking it, trying to figure out what the seemingly random relation between numbers, letters, and weird characters had to do with changing colour and layout. I remember this vividly.

Being thrown in the deep end is all part of many people’s design journey. This has been the case in most jobs I’ve worked at, whether it was part of my job description or not.

“Can you animate this Flash banner?”

“We need someone to design this email newsletter, but everyone else is swamped. Can you do it?”

“The client needs changes and our regular designer is off sick”

I’ve picked up skills along the way for tasks I’d never dreamt I’d be doing, learning by doing in the trenches. Since joining Automattic, I’ve found that constantly learning is encouraged. In fact, it’s part of our company creed.

I will never stop learning… I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

(Coincidentally, my colleague, Kjell, also mentioned this in his recent blog post here.)

Most days I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, even after all these years…and that’s OK. After all, you can learn anything, but you can’t learn everything. It’s important to share everything you learn; whether it’s in a blog post, Slack channel, social media or even events, you could be helping someone who is in a similar position.

I’ve learnt so much in my time designing things, through trial and error, through friends and colleagues and the internet, yet there’s still so much more out there. Things are changing all the time, the internet is fluid, and even design changes as trends ebb and flow.

It’s common to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

My advice to anyone struggling with these feelings is simple: create something new, every day – even if it sucks.

Even if it sucks.

You don’t have to show it to anybody, you don’t have to impress anyone with it. Keep it for yourself if you must.

Why? It’s important to remind yourself just how far you’ve come. Looking back on past work and seeing where you are now compared to where you were then is healthy, and you most probably don’t realise this during your regular day-to-day work. Take time to reflect.

Keep creating. Keep learning. Keep designing.

By gareth allison

Person who wrote the words you're reading right now.