Finding your niche in design

Fifteen years ago I decided that I wanted to get into Graphic & Web Design. Being in high school at the time I really didn't have a solid understanding of where that career path would lead me. I knew I wanted to be creative and basically design 'stuff'.

Fast forward to 2011 and a lot has changed in the design field. The term Graphic Design more or less has the same connotation but the field of Web Design has vastly changed. In fact, design has changed so much on the web that the term web design can mean many different things.

First let's break out what a Graphic Designer might do:

  • Logo Design
  • Print Design (brochures, ads, business cards etc )
  • Page Layout
  • Typography

Now let's break out a what a Web Designer might be asked to do:

  • UI Interface Design
  • Information Architecture 
  • Wire frame Design
  • Usability
  • HTML & CSS coding
  • Typography
  • Web Ad Design
  • Logo Design
  • Mobile & App Design

With all these choices that fall under the design umbrella, how can any new designer know what to focus on? The answer to that is simple, they don't.

When I started down my career path I tried to be the 'Jack of all trades'. There isn't exactly anything wrong with that but over the years I've learned that I certainly enjoy specific areas of design more than others. I've also learned that because I try and focus on these areas, I tend to enjoy the work more and find myself getting excited over a project when it plays to my niche.

Over the years, I figured out my niche is in Web Design. Though I still work on print and have a love for Typography and Layout, I get much more excited when I'm specifically working on User Interface Design. I'm also fascinated with Usability and am slowly but surely getting more involved in Mobile/App design.

How did I eventually figure this out? Well for one I took a good and honest look at the finished design pieces I've worked on. I found that by being honest with myself when it comes down to what I consider 'good' work I would often gravitate to my UI design projects. Another thing that helped me identify what to focus on was to realize what projects I struggled on. For me, a logo project would drag on and on so these days I spend less time designing logos.

The idea here is that in order to find that niche you simply need to be honest with yourself. Step back and take a second look at work that you've completed over the past year or so. Identify which pieces you were most excited over and start trying to market yourself and hone your skills to that specific area. Going forward, focus on that niche so that you can start getting those clients and projects that excite you most.