Our industry moves quickly, and even if your professors were completely up-to-date on the latest tools and methods, that knowledge would be outdated in a few years anyway. The foundational principles of design don't change, however, and the real value of a design education is in learning those. Use this opportunity to "learn how to learn," and use resources outside of school to teach yourself the latest tools and techniques. That curiosity and drive to learn on your own will serve you well in a design career.
Design is less about tools/methods and more about a particular way of empathetic problem-solving. Learn the foundations of design thinking from your professors, even if their toolset isn't the most current.
Join a design-oriented Slack team, read industry blogs (InVision has a great one), scour Dribbble and Behance, and pick peoples' brains on Twitter. There are lots of professional designers who are eager to talk to students and help them learn the latest tools and methods.... See more
Download trial versions of the tools you want to learn, and just play around. There are lots of tutorials floating around which can teach you how to use them.
Design changes quickly, and the tools and methods that are relevant now might not be relevant in five years. If you develop a love of the learning process, and set aside some time each week to get up-to-speed on the industry's latest, you'll be well-prepared for the future.... See more
Transparency is about communication, and making design transparent requires you to over-communicate. Show your work and share your process. Get your non-design coworkers involved, and provide a venue for them to see your work before it's camera-ready.
Ask questions and get feedback from everyone, not just the other designers. By keeping outside stakeholders involved, your team will build a reputation for openness and transparency.
Make sure there's a consistent time and place to share your work — maybe it's a weekly design review open to everyone, or maybe it's a tool like Wake that lets anyone peek into a stream of work that designers are uploading.
Don't be afraid to showcase works-in-progress, wireframes, and even napkin sketches. Just make sure you make it clear whether you're looking for feedback yet, or just showing your work.
Communication is key to building a remote culture. Intentionally choosing the right tools and routines can help create a culture that's more than just sharing GIFs in Slack.
The tools you use will set the cadence for communication and help determine your company's culture. A company using Slack is different than a company using Basecamp, etc. Intentionally choose the tools you use for communication, project management, sharing, and more.... See more
Some examples: Each week, call out coworkers who are doing great work; have a set time to discuss "wins for the week"; have a themed GIF competition each day; give kudos to achievements; have occasional workshops via video chat in which a teammate presents about something they're passionate about.... See more
Create space for non-work-related, "watercooler" communication. At my company, we have a video chat every Friday where anyone who's available stops in for 15-30 minutes to talk about anything except work. This helps build an understanding beyond just our professional relationships.... See more
Meeting your coworkers in-person can create a foundation to support your remote culture. Schedule company off-site meetups, or even just informal gatherings, on a predictable schedule. Make sure everyone knows when they'll next be seeing each other face-to-face. There's no better way to build company culture (and inside jokes!) than this.... See more
Being the sole designer in a company can be tricky, and you may miss the valuable feedback and the back-and-forth of ideas that comes from working with other designers. But there are still options — you can teach your non-design coworkers to provide better feedback, and you can find outside community to help validate your ideas.
If you show your work to your coworkers, they'll probably have feedback, even if they don't know how to articulate it in design terms. Teach your coworkers how design critique works, and give them examples of the kinds of feedback that are helpful. Teach them to frame feedback as descriptions, not prescriptions ("how can we accentuate the logo" rather than "make the logo bigger").... See more
Join an outside community of designers that can provide feedback for each other. This may be online (like a regional design Slack team), or offline (a gathering of designers who are willing to provide each other with feedback). If this doesn't exist near you, start it!... See more
It can be frustrating to work on something significant and yet be unable to show it to others due to a non-disclosure agreement. I know this frustration first-hand, having previously worked at an agency that specialized in enterprise design work for Fortune 500s. There are a few things you can do to make sure you don't have a gap in your portfolio where NDA-protected work would otherwise live:
When writing a case study, your process often says more about you than the final product. Instead of showing the NDA'd final product, collect wireframes, mock-ups, rejected design directions, and other byproducts that demonstrate your design thinking. Just make sure they don't include any proprietary client info!... See more
Even if you can't include the full NDA'd design in your portfolio, you may be able to show some smaller components. Think of any elements or interaction patterns that would be interesting to show without giving away too much about the project itself; those are often the most interesting parts in a portfolio or case study anyway.... See more
NDAs don't always last forever — some of them include a sunset clause, which allows you to talk about the work after a certain amount of time. Check the NDA for a clause like this (or talk to the client, your employer, or an attorney). If it has it, you'll be able to backfill your portfolio with the non-disclosable work after the time has passed.... See more
Side projects are the best way to ensure that your portfolio continues to fill up while you're doing work under NDA. They can also help your sanity — clients that require an NDA usually have strict design requirements, so working on a project that's just for you will give you a chance to exercise your creative muscles and continue growing in areas that aren't part of your day job.... See more
You might be able to show off a non-disclosable project by removing the client's logo and changing any brand colors and proprietary information. Of course, you should do this discretely, ensuring that you aren't giving away any of the client's information and are respecting the spirit of the NDA. If you aren't sure, talk to your employer or an attorney.... See more
In a remote culture, the key to being an effective designer is to be deliberate and intentional. Share everything, over-communicate, and bring your teammates into your thought process. Choose tools that complement your process and facilitate sharing.
When working remotely, err on the side of over-communication. When in doubt, share what you're working on. Use a tool like Wake or InVision to show your latest mockups and wireframes, and consider creating a dedicated channel in Slack for sharing.... See more
Without boundaries, remote work can get overwhelming. Make sure everyone on your team knows when you are and aren't reachable. Turn off email and Slack out of business hours, and consider leaving your work devices in another room when you aren't working.... See more
Don't be a "black box" designer — requests go in, work comes out. Share your thought process with your team by documenting your ideas, sharing napkin sketches and wireframes, and being available to answer questions and field ideas. Your teammates will appreciate being brought into the process, and they'll better understand the way you work and how to collaborate better.... See more
Feeling like your work is appreciated is one of the most important things in a workplace culture, but appreciation isn't expressed as easily in a remote workplace. Foster an encouraging environment by drawing attention to good work and commending your teammates when they've done something valuable.... See more
The tools you use will have an outsize effect on the culture your team develops. Don't just pick the tools _du jour_ that everyone else is using. Deliberately choose a toolset that fits your team's needs and values.
Communication is key — you've got to transfer a lot of institutional knowledge, and give the new designer the tools to start contributing quickly. This is especially important when growing from a design team of one, since you may be codifying parts of your process for the first time.
Design research, customer interviews, process outlines — all this should be collected in Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, or something similarly accessible. If your team is very small, a lot of this information may not be documented consistently. Get it all down in writing, so new team members can catch up quickly.... See more
Explain each step of your process, detailing both the *what* and the *why*. Describe which parts are set in stone and which are flexible, and ideally have your new teammate shadow an existing designer as they go through the process on a real task.... See more
Give your teammate the tools to start contributing quickly, so they feel like a valuable member of the team and not just "dead weight" until they're fully onboarded. Give them some smaller design tasks that they can help with right away, and help walk them through the team's design process if they get stuck.... See more
Introduce them to all the stakeholders and points-of-contact they'll be working with throughout the organization. This ensures that (a) they'll be familiar with the people they'll be talking to, and (b) makes them more approachable to sales, engineering, customer success, and other teams throughout the company.... See more