Single designers in teams, how do you get design mentorship or coaching?

6 months ago from , Product Designer, Front End Developer

Single designers working in small teams, usually early stage startups, how do you get design coaching or mentorship?

I realised that I need mentorship but I am unable to find someone.

31 comments

  • Tom WoodTom Wood, 6 months ago

    This was ultimately the main reason I got a new job. I pushed myself, but despite the best advice that the "internet is all you need", you can't know what you're lacking in until someone points it out.

    So, my advice to you is to see if your company can provide you with a budget to get some training to expand your design thinking. IDEO seems to be an incredible place for this.

    For me, for example, I didn't realise that my typography and layout skills weren't up to scratch. If I had stayed in the role, I would probably have never known how they were lacking or where to improve them. So it is tough.

    18 points
  • Ryan RushingRyan Rushing, 6 months ago

    Teach to learn. If you're the only designer at your company, become the mentor to everyone else. Hold small talks and presentations about typography, color, layout, etc. As you do this you'll start to become more confident in what you should seek out in a mentor for yourself.

    12 points
    • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, 6 months ago

      This. Also, actively answer questions you don't know the answer to, especially online.

      That means looking up places where questions get asked (here on DN, ux.stackexchange, etc) and look at good questions. Then Google, YouTube, or otherwise work your way to the answer. Give it to them, and you've both learned.

      1 point
  • Isaac Del Toro, 6 months ago

    In the same boat. Hope to get some insight on how to find mentorship.

    8 points
  • Dan Taplin, 6 months ago

    I hope this question get's answered as my last two roles have been as the lead creative. While I've definitely improved through non-stop reading, research, exploring and the like. The difference it's made having design friends give me feedback has been great.

    The only advice I could give is to rely on your fellow designers as much as is possible / acceptable and /or move jobs - which is one of many reasons why I'm looking to move jobs. The lack of design understanding / thinking is crushing my soul.

    5 points
    • David FairbairnDavid Fairbairn, 6 months ago

      I'll second this one. As the design lead in a small product development group, it's hard to improve when there aren't other designers on staff to help make things better. Articles and reading can only do so much.

      3 points
  • V. MV. M, 6 months ago

    Design community is one of the most active community. For early stage startups, there are so many active forums already available - NASSCOM, NID have startup support groups, Microsoft Ventures has regular UX classes.

    Also, leading designers are quite approachable. Find someone who is in similar space. Go to UX events, Share whatever you design.

    Show your passion and why they should invest their energy in you.It DID work for me, hope you too find it useful.

    All the best.

    • VM
    4 points
  • Nathan CooperNathan Cooper, 6 months ago

    In a similar position at a startup. I love that I own design, but I'd like someone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with.

    It is challenging, but in its own way rewarding. I won't do it again though, unless I'm working for myself.

    3 points
  • Jason EtcovitchJason Etcovitch, 6 months ago

    Short answer: You don't.

    Long answer: Designing for a small team or startup is a great way to learn a lot of new things and do a lot of new things, but it's often on you to start them. Especially if you're the only designer on the team, that means that you are your own mentor which is a really tough spot to be in. The best you can really do is to make everyone else critique your work, send it to other designers in the industry (you'd be surprised at how helpful people can be) and just keep trying new things.

    Also, share your work here on DN! I'm sure we'll all be willing to give you some suggestions/advice.

    3 points
  • Alejandro CamaraAlejandro Camara, 6 months ago

    +1 here

    2 points
  • Jon MooreJon Moore, 6 months ago

    I love reading articles by designers I look up to. It's a great way to see their professional process, and they always provide great anecdotes from their design careers.

    Christian Beck does a lot of mentorship writing over on Medium: https://current.innovatemap.com/

    Some recommended reads:

    1 point
  • Bruno MarinhoBruno Marinho, 6 months ago

    From my point of view and past experience while you can't get a direct designer to designer mentorship you can get other kinds of mentorships. In special from PM's and Engineer leads. In the end, it contributes a lot to your growth as a designer but also to open your eyes to other things like growth, team management, and engineering in general.

    But off course that if you get into a point where u feel that you're not learning or in need to be more w designers you should either convince the company to bring another designer to the team or find another job that fits your current needs.

    1 point
    • Samuel ṢoṣinaSamuel Ṣoṣina, 6 months ago

      Totally agree here. My first design role was as an intern in a start-up. I was the only designer surrounded by devs. That was crucial to my growth in learning to Frontend code and I'm certainly benefiting from it today! Most design roles I see all require some form of coding. With that being said I had to really push myself to improve as a designer during those months. It was tough. I agree also to perhaps talk to through with your company or just move on.

      0 points
  • Mark Harvey, 6 months ago

    Get involved in the local design community. Attend meetups. If there isn't one, create one

    1 point
  • Ben JansenBen Jansen, 6 months ago

    If you want to get better: Read a ton of books, watch videos & tutorials. The internet is all you need.

    If you want to get ahead in your career: Get on Twitter of Dribbble or Behance and become friends with the small group of designers who have a big following. Learn from them, how they sell themselves, associate yourself with them and indirectly they will be your mentors

    1 point
    • John JacksonJohn Jackson, 6 months ago

      While you can get by with resources on the Internet, there's nothing like having a design colleague in the same workspace as you who can share experiences, knowledge, and provide feedback to you.

      4 points
      • Ravi Agrawal, 6 months ago

        Exactly. I believe even though the internet resources are crazy good, they will never take into account the current scenario, the pressure on product teams or engineering teams, deadlines and much much more.

        But yes, wherever I am today, its only because of the internet so I can't thank the web enough.

        1 point
  • Alice PhieuAlice Phieu, 6 months ago

    Local design meetups, hackathons and conferences are a great way to find mentors. That's how I met one of my mentors, and that's also how she found hers.

    I also wouldn't limit yourself to just designers. Remember that UI/UX design is not just visual design :) I've worked with PMs who are just as good as my design mentors. Even though they lacked design skills, they had years of experience working with designers. Through them I've learned some product strategy, how to collaborate better with developers, research, technical writing, etc.

    Mentorship is a two way street. Just the other day, I showed my PM what a user journey is and how to create a user flow using LucidCharts. People in early stage startups usually wear multiple hats. This is your chance of mentoring others too.

    0 points
  • Gabe WillGabe Will, 6 months ago

    Someone answered this question on Playbook recently. Atif's response is worth reading over.

    0 points
  • Jayant RaoJayant Rao, 6 months ago

    I've always had this question - Do I work for someone who will mentor me or can I mentor myself?

    My answer has always been - the Internet is a huge platform for learning. It's basically the Lego in your hands, make whatever you want to make. The guide book (Internet) will teach you some tricks but eventually, you will have to use your creativity to build your own blocks of creativity.

    I love community-based websites as people are ALWAYS willing to answer. If you have a question - Post it on DesignerNews, StackExchange(Graphics/UI) or even Web Developer News or even Reddit. Follow HongKiat, Wired, FastCodeDesign, Medium.com; and many other websites out there.

    They are your teachers, mentors, classroom(Udemy), motivation(Gary Vee, books by Ryan Holiday, George Lois) and your life guide(Plato, Socrates).

    I was lucky to have learnt from the best seniors during my internships, university and college. But once I stepped out, I realized that I'm on my own until I find someone who wanted to guide me.

    Hope this answered your question from my perspective.

    0 points
  • Ron BronsonRon Bronson, 6 months ago

    Events can be a good way to connect with other people in the same boat. I think being granular about sorts of coaching you're looking for, can be useful.

    I'll echo others who've said doing a lot of reading on the topics you want to level up on, is a good way to "mentor yourself" because one of the things you might find, is a lot of people who "mentor" might not be as great at it.

    People we admire don't always have the skills for coaching, etc., but I've found the best advice I've received as an independent has come from relationships I've made through various communities I've become part of. Twitter and other tools can help, but it's also often a slog.

    0 points
  • Justin Reonardy, 6 months ago

    My manager provided me with a connection with someone more senior outside of the company, it has been a challenge in terms of scheduling but I was lucky enough that the person was willing to give mentorship when I reached out

    0 points
  • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, 6 months ago

    Just keep looking at other people's work, read lots, listen to industry podcasts, and set your standards high. I'm an introvert so I'm not much into crowd-surfing or events & communities.

    0 points
  • Diego FernandezDiego Fernandez, 6 months ago

    I always wondered the same, and after a few years of trial and error I came up with a list that kinda makes sense:

    Local/Online communities This one is the easiest route and the one that opens doors nearly anywhere in the world.

    Communities that meet IRL and have events are in most cases very friendly and looking for new attendants. Check out Meetup

    Online communities such as Designer News can always keep you entertained, and give you a chance to showcase stuff.

    Other communities that I have found friendly, open and always entertaining live in Slack: Design Inc., Spec, NomadList

    School/University Reach out to your favorite professor/s. I maintain contact with a few that I reach out from time to time to discuss more high-level stuff than "just design."

    Your company If you are working for a startup, it's very likely that the founders and yourself have access to a network of VC firms, and even know someone in their network that can introduce you.

    I have been lucky to work for a company with access to FirstMark Capital, which is always organizing events and meetups to assist people in their portfolio to share experiences and knowledge.

    Finding a mentor can be difficult, but is possible if you reach out to people.

    0 points
  • Ryan GloverRyan Glover, 6 months ago

    Hi, Ravi. Though the primary focus is on JavaScript/Meteor, I also am open to helping with UI/UX through my mentorship service: https://themeteorchef.com/mentorship. Any questions shoot me an email (ryan.glover@themeteorchef.com).

    0 points
  • Edgar Chaparro, 6 months ago

    So funny I think many of us end up in this bucket and sometimes designing on an island can feel like your not growing. Some advice I would give is go to design meetups reach out to other designers. Inject yourself places and make it happen. It's awkward but you kind of have to make an effort sometimes. My good friend also started this FB group where you can get direct feedback fairly quickly from the design community.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/sketchtogether/

    0 points
  • barry saundersbarry saunders, 6 months ago

    IXDA offer mentoring: http://ixdasydney.org/#mentoring

    I have also got mentoring on art direction from Seasoned: http://www.seasonedhq.com/

    You will always have a challenge learning in a place where you're the only designer. You can do good work in that situation, but worth considering working in a larger team for your next job.

    0 points