designer
“When you are making good money? When you enjoy what you do? When you win awards? When you go freelance? When you own your own company?”

These questions were asked by Lauren Marie Krause who wanted to find out what other designers think about success and what was their career path like. I got tagged by Tara from GraphicDesignBlog and then by Lisa Sabin-Wilson to talk about my experience as a Designer by answering to Lauren’s questions below:

1. How did you get started in the business?

In 1996 I graduated with Bachelors Degree in Computer Science, and soon got a full time job with a non-profit organization as an Administrative Assistant. But they quickly noticed that I was much happier doing any computer related work than administrative tasks, and especially once they saw that I got hooked on the newest toy – internet, they promoted me to the Network Administrator of a newly opened Internet Centre for students. Soon after that another Internet Centre was opened for businesses and I was assigned to teach Internet classes and Web Design.

Since then the only other jobs I was managing to get were teaching Web Design and Programming. So from the very beginning whatever I was learning myself I was teaching others. Despite the fact that I studied Computer Science for four and half years, I was self-taught in Web Design.

After 6 years of teaching I was ready for more hands-on real world stuff, so I started my own web design business – VG Universe Design. I’ve been always perceived by many as a Web Programmer rather than a Web&Graphic Designer, so venturing into my own freelance business allowed me to show a bit of my creative side by taking on some design jobs. It is rather ironic that I was recognized by many as a programmer when actually what made me to study Computer Science was my love to draw since childhood and Computer Graphics.

2. What kept you going in those early years?

Passion, Curiosity and Challenge. Passion to learn, to express myself creatively in both art and programming. My curious mind was turning me into an explorer. I wanted to know how web sites work, how a certain effect on them was achieved, how to get a site to work as I wish, how to digitally express my artistry. And I always loved to challenge myself. Can I conquer this new programming language, master this image editing tool, get a grip on this design concept, juggle with and actually complete two-three projects at the same time.

3a. Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or you would never make it in this industry?

Yes, many times. There’s so much competition in my field in Vancouver that it’s shocking sometimes.

3b. How did you work through that?

By learning and challenging myself, by reading tons of books, magazines, studying and imitating techniques of other professionals. And at the same time I was trying to find what makes me unique and in some cases better than them. I have three significant advantages: I love and can do both design and programming, so my clients have to deal only with me; because of my teaching background I can educate, guide and consult my clients with an ease, often figuring out what their needs are better than they can do themselves; and finally, I’m a quick learner and I’m always ready and willing to improve my skills set. On the other hand I know my limits – I don’t take on projects with a website entirely done in Flash, nor do I tackle strictly print oriented work. I’d love to know it all, but there are only 24 hours in a day and I can’t be alert all 24 of them.

4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?

Of course, I do. I can get easily overwhelmed by all those talented designers and gifted programmers who are much better than I am. But without them I wouldn’t have my sources of inspiration. I perceive them all as my teachers and try to pick up as much knowledge from them as I can.

5. How do you measure success?

Success = Clients/Employers Praise = Peers Respect = Students Admiration = Self Confidence = Self Satisfaction

6. By your standard, do you think you are successful?

I’m on the right path to success but not quite there. When I will design a beautiful WordPress theme from scratch, write useful plugins (after graduating Plugin Writing Course), become a full time freelancer, make my first million, then perhaps I’ll consider myself to be a successful designer. Until then I feel happy and fortunate that I enjoy my work and love what I do.


What about you? Do you consider yourself successful in what you do? How do you measure success?

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24 Insightful Bits in response to “When do you Consider you are a Successful Designer?”

  1. Hi Vivien

    Thanks for taking part. A fascinating path that led you to web design, I admire anyone that can teach themself. I like your paintings too, do you exhibit them?

  2. Well done Vivien! I’m finding all these background essays absolutely fascinating – and it’s nice to find that I have things in common with other people in my chosen field!

    It’s a shame your not in the UK… Tara’s crying out for somebody to teach her, and you’ve got the background – but in my experience distance learning is nearly impossible with design subjects! ;)

  3. Vivien

    Thanks for the tag, Tara and for the compliments on my drawings. No, I don’t exhibit. Unfortunately I don’t even have much time lately to draw as often as I’d like to.

    Thanks, Paul. I too enjoyed these background essays. It’s amazing to learn about the similarities and differences in our paths, but we all have one thing in common – passion for design, and we love what we do.
    Well, if you can arrange a business trip for me, I’ll gladly come to UK and teach Tara all I know about web design :-)

  4. I’ve booked your ticket! Is Monday OK ;)

  5. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot for more work here… But, we could always organise a design-focused version of the SOBcon? Bring together all the designers who blog for a mini-con. What do you think?

  6. Vivien

    Monday is a bit too soon, but that’s okay. Just email me the details, Tara ;-)

    Paul, it is an interesting idea. Two things though: I doubt it’s going to be a “mini-con”, there are many designers who blog. Second, where is this conference going to take place, in UK? ;-)

  7. I would say that being a successful designer is the same as anything else. Once you are happy with what you are doing and what you have. That is success.

  8. Loads of designers, but probably not *that* many who’d be willing (or able) to take a few days out for a conference…

    Obviously the UK would be great for me, but if there’s more people coming from outside Britain then that would be a little unfair! I guess we’d need to see how many people would be interested in principal, plot them all on a map, and pick somewhere in the centre which we can all get to!

  9. Cool. I liked the way you defined success :)

  10. Okay, now you have asked an easy one. The only person in whose eyes you need to be a success is you. Success and the confidence that comes from having done well by your own standards is like a beacon shining out from within. It can’t be acted or pretended. However, in NannyWorld we notice that people get into trouble when they have externalized what success means in terms of physical ownership — the old confusion between net worth and self worth. “I will be successful when I own a this or a that,” or “when I get this honor or that piece of paper.” These are temporal substitutes for personal lack.

    A successful life comes from finding your gift and giving it back to the world generously. It is neither about salary nor title, praise nor adulation, but about fulfillment of your gift. That doesn’t promise a happy life, but it means that you will have followed your purpose in this world.

  11. Vivien

    I agree with you, Paul – not many designers would be able to attend a conference in, especially if it’s in another country. Well, we shouldn’t give up on this idea and see if it can actually be realized one day.

    Thanks, Shankar. And how do you define success?

    Nanny Molly, I completely agree with you – success has nothing to do with the happiness. Many successful people are not happy, and many happy people are not successful. It would be great though to be in the golden medium.

  12. Well, I get this quote this mind now “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” (Thomas Alva Edison).
    As you said, success to me is self satisfaction and admiration by people.
    When people get inspired by something I’ve done, I feel I’m good and successful.

  13. Thanks for your replies to these questions, Vivien! I’m amazed at how many people have taken the challenge to answer these questions and how much they (and their readers) enjoyed the responses!

    It is an interesting path you took to get to where you are today. I truly enjoyed reading your post. I think that Designers Who Blog Con would be interesting and I would love to go (even though I don’t have my own blog), but the question for me would be cost, not necessarily getting/taking the time off. It would be SO COOL to meet all of the people behind the blogs I read!!!

  14. Vivien

    Thanks for the answer, Shankar :-)

    Lauren, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading my response. I’m with you on the cost for getting to the conference. That’s why I was asking Paul, where would it be held.
    It would be really good if we could find some rich sponsors for the conference :-)
    Of course, it would be very interesting to meet bloggers in person after knowing them only online.

  15. Unless it was a webcam conference? ;)
    Not sure how many people can webcam at once.

  16. Vivien

    hey, Tara. That’s an interesting thought :-)
    I’m not really sure how many people can webcam at once. Four-five, maybe more? I know it works with three people….

  17. Rich sponsors are a nice idea… But, failing that little miracle perhaps we could at least organise something online.

    Webcams won’t work – I’ve tried and failed with that method before. However, what might work is a virtual chat convention… Anyone here use Second Life?

    Perhaps I’d better blog this later – just so we’re not all stomping on your topic! ;)

  18. What happened to my last comment?!?! Did your Askimet eat it?

  19. Oh well… I’ll post it again! What I said was…

    Webcam conferencing is unlikely to work. I’ve tested it out recently for a project, and it’s just not practical for more than a few people.

    Perhaps we should consider a virtual conference, maybe powered by Second Life?

  20. LOL! I just posted it again, and it’s been eaten again! Askimet hates me! :) It must be some trigger phrase that I used…

    What I said was… Webcam conferencing is unlikely to work for more than a few people – and that perhaps we should think about a virtual conference using something like Second Life.

    If this works, then I’ve discovered a major flaw in the Ajax comment editor plugin… ;)

  21. Vivien

    Hey Paul, sorry about the Akismet. I don’t know why did it flag your comments as spam. I’ve recovered them all now.

    I’ve never used Second Life, although I’ve heard about it. Yes, you should post about the possibilities for the virtual conference on your blog. I don’t mind talking about here in the comments, but it seems that you know more on this topic than any of us does, so it’d be nice to learn more about it on your blog.

    If you prefer to talk about it here in the comments, that’s fine with me. I just hate to see your comment being flagged as spam again.

  22. LOL! Askimet seems to have it in for me – yours is the fifth blog that’s eaten one of my comments!

  23. Excellent job, Vivien – I’m glad you got around to doing this one. I completely agree with your definition of success. Being happy in what you do, no matter what it is that you do, is half the battle, I think.

  24. Vivien

    Thanks, Lisa. Yes, nothing ruins the life more than a job that you’re dreading to go to every day.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach programming, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on