3 minute read

Over the past decade, the design world has been turned on its head. Due to the rise of the Internet and social media, great designers are no longer commodities, they’re luxuries. Companies are starting to go out of their way to find designers with unique perspectives to tell their brands’ stories, and the world’s best designers are becoming partners instead of employees.

If you’re just beginning your design career, it’s important to start on the right foot. Like several other professions, a design career is becoming less conducive to lifetime employees and more conducive to independent contractors and journeymen. Recently, we sat down with Mikey Burton on Obsessed With Design to chat about his design career. During this conversation, he gave advice to young designers looking to develop their career as the design industry evolves and changes. Here are some key takeaways from our conversation with Mikey Burton.

How the Design Industry is Evolving For Independent Designers

20 years ago, design projects were almost universally dictated by clients. While that is still true of many agency-client relationships today, the most successful design projects are the ones where the client gives the designer relative autonomy. 

“I think now, if you look at individual designers, projects are being catered to designers more than ever,” Burton said.

This is happening for several reasons. For one, more marketers and executives are seeing the success of similar projects from their competitors, forcing them to compete. In many consumer-facing industries, companies have little choice than to adapt to a more artistically open structure if they want to stand out in their marketplace.

In addition to their competition, many companies are trying a more scattershot approach than ever before. With more channels to hit and a larger amount of content they have to produce every day, it becomes worthwhile to take a chance on designers, artists, and agencies that may not have gotten the nod in the past.

“Brands are trying to figure out advertising and marketing more than they ever had to in the past,” Mikey told us. “They have to tap into the social media thing. They’re always throwing money at weird ideas that designers can accomplish for them.”

Why You Should Focus on Finding Your Own Design Style

If you’re early in your design career, Mikey believes that time is on your side. The earlier you focus on finding a design style that resonates with you, the sooner you can start to hone and develop that style into something that will resonate with others. 

“As an individual designer you really need to have a specific voice and hone that in a way where people will cater a project for you,” Mikey said.

In the world of Behance and Dribbble, it’s really easy for your work to blend in with everyone else. If you want the best clients to seek you out for projects, it will only happen if you develop a voice and perspective that is unique and different from other designers that they’re looking at.

“You need to have your own voice and start producing content and then someone will say ‘I want to partner with this person,’ ” Burton advised.

How Mikey Found (And Leaned In To) His Design Style

“Thinking about design now... I’d love to get to a point where I’m the Anthony Bourdain of drawing food.”

- Mikey Burton

Throughout our interview, Mikey told the story of his evolution as a designer and an artist. His story is both one of self-discovery and of professional growth and development. 

If you’re interested in hearing his story, download this episode and subscribe to Obsessed With Design on iTunes.