5 Common Mistakes Made by Junior Designers

Mistakes Made by Junior DesignersHello! My name is Maxime Le Ruyet and I’m a junior product designer, born and raised in the Baguette country, now living in Shanghai where I pursue my final year of Master’s degree in Design and Transculturality. Currently I develop my design experience at internship at WILDDESIGN Shanghai. As a junior designer I’m quite familiar with all kinds of mistakes. Today I want to share with you my most frequent mistakes and my ways to cope with them!

All these five design mistakes I’m about to introduce I’ve experienced first-hand during my studies in France and internships abroad. I even developed my own original design process chart. I divided this process into five parts.

Mistakes Made by Junior Designers

Mistake #1:  Staying on the safe track

It’s hard to imagine but sometimes I still meet people outside of the design field who think that design is happening “just like that” and comes from a magical, creative spark! As designers we know that is rarely a case. During these five years I’ve found out that there is no space for randomness when it comes to design process.

Following a design process is really important to structure your work, bring consistency and keep your team on the same page. However, before you realize it may not be possible to keep up with this procedure and you are going to think: “Why my design outcomes are not as satisfying as they should be if I have followed and completed all the steps?”

This is the first mistake of a young designer which is staying on the safe track.

You have to keep in mind that a design process is not a static method or a rational equation but a flexible tool for your mind. It has to be customized to each design projects regarding different elements such as the context, the user, your client requirements or even your team members. There are no good or bad designers, some people are just more capable to identify new ways to highlight design opportunities and to bring team’s talents in a right position.

This first mistake isn’t distinctive only for young designers but also for seniors and companies who are often afraid of stepping outside their design comfort zones. Taking into account social changes and new users’ needs, it’s worthy to consider to realign our design process when we’re struggling with a project and take a look at it with a fresh eye.

Mistakes Made by Junior Designers

Mistake #2: Disregarding the limits of the project

You are starting a new project – the first step for you will be to find out more about your context and your user. Make sure you have analysed all the approaches, get relevant feedback and understand the goals of the project. However, one of the most important steps is to define the limits of this context. Well-defined limits will be your best shield against yourself and your client.

I have experienced disappointing situations when I had realized that me and my team have been too far from the brief. Well, when it happens in school project it’s not a big deal but once you are facing a client with time and precise quotation it becomes costly issue.

It’s a really classic “junior mistake” most of the time due to an excessive and positive motivation to revolutionize your project. On the other hand, clear limits are also a way to drive your clients. They will help you constrain them from asking for more borderline ideas that will cost you or your company time and money.

More on handling client relationships here: 6 Key Factors to Build Excellent Client Relationships >>>


Mistake #3: Refining instead of exploring

Now it the time for you and your team to enter into the ideation phase. Your fingers cannot wait longer for setting out your ideas and thoughts you have kept inside since the research phase. The creative drawing session start. The goal: 100 bad sketches in 1 hour. After five minutes you find some cool concepts but quickly one of them seems to be your Holy Grail. So you spend the rest of the creative session to refine it.

In a perfect world and best scenario all of your colleagues are impressed by your idea and finally the concept is selected. The whole team is working hard on the concept from CAD modelling, high-quality renderings to rapid prototyping. And bam! It’s too late! You’ve have made the third rookie mistake – refining instead of exploring ideas.

In fact, you realize that you have spent all of your time on the refinement instead of breaking doors and pushing other ideas. At the end, if your client is not happy with this main concept, you will have to restart due to the lack of hindsight and other options.

Mistakes Made by Junior Designers

Mistake #4: Realign your concept with your user

The concept is selected. You and your team have done a great job, you have successfully challenged the first three mistakes. Your project is strongly based on good research, reasonable perspectives and a cool concept exploration. You are now ready to meet suppliers and to launch the project. However, it’s been quite a long time since your first user research and your design has fundamentally evolved.

It’s the fourth mistake – to forget to realign your concept with your final user. Sometimes during the whole refinement process we lose sight of the user needs and forget who this design is made for. We spend months, days and nights, developing a project and putting our personal taste in it. After many refinement and simplification research it may happen at some point that the project would significantly get away from the primary user expectations. This is the moment to come back to the user and check if your result is suitable and understandable for him before launching the production.

Mistakes Made by Junior Designers

Mistake #5: Being afraid to share your work & feedback

Now when the project is done, your user has validated the design and its features, it’s the time to promote it, inside and outside your design sphere. That is the last mistake – being afraid of sharing your work and your thoughts.

If you are still a student don’t be afraid to share your project with others. It’s more important to collect feedback on your work from others than to try to protect it. It’s a way to improve your weak points and also to promote yourself if you are looking for a new job. On the other hand, if you’re working inside a company as a junior designer try to sum up your insights and make a review with your teammates. This point is directly linked to the first mistake concerning the design process. Being able to draw objective conclusions about your work inside your team will lead you to a better design process. Don’t be afraid to say what you think regardless of your junior position, if you think that is can be constructive and beneficial for at least one person.

This article is not aimed at avoiding of committing any of these mistakes at any cost. The most important about making mistakes it’s to learn from them. You can refer to these five points when you are struggling to reach a particular goal but making mistake is an essential part of your junior designer life. At the end, it will increase your efficiency if you are able to draw objective conclusion from them.


Thank you for stopping by and I wish you a lot of valuable mistakes!


Feel free to share with us any other design mistakes that come to your mind in the comments.

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I'm human centered designer from France. I don't make drawings - I make walls of ideation and crazy quick mock ups. I don't buy product - I go to retail design exploring and new user experiences.

Originally written by Maxime Le Ruyet, 04. June 2015. Last updated 18. January 2016


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