Hard And Soft Skills Of Designers

What skills do designers should have? There are a lot of skills sets that we can only imagine. But if to be more specific than I think we need to categorize skills somehow.

First of all, we have 2 big categories that can work not only for designers but still it is a good start. We can have soft and hard skills. It is not about a style of work or complexities of the design workflow. We will talk about this in details. And before that, I want you to understand for different design fields we need to have different soft and especially hard skills. You will see what I mean...

Hard skills

If we talk about UX designers then we can have next skills:

Design theory

This is a knowledge where we need to start to learn design. It covers design principles, conventions, patterns, different theoretic knowledge, methodology, studies and even psychology of perception. With this knowledge, you can spend less time on creating different concepts. Because you do not need to spend time on cases where you can use knowledge of the previous experience of designers, artist and psychologists. The only problem with the last one is that you need to learn how you can interpret it in the design area.

Paper sketches

This skill is very good and helpful to sketch quick ideas, draw interactions, use cases and user stories. If you have this skill or you decided to have it � good. But as additional skills. Of course, designers professions consists of details and sometimes small pieces of knowledge and experience. So, I will just leave it here and you will decide a good time and case when you want to learn and practice it.


It is a legendary software that all designers and non-designers know. At least part of it. Good for raster graphics, corrections and preparation of photos and different images including compositions that we can use in the interface. Or maybe for creating basic GIF animation. But still it is not main software for UX/UI designers. However, some time ago it was the only proper software that we could use to create visual interfaces. Yes, and also the...


Good for vector graphics, icons, illustrations. Some designers use it to create whole UI design projects for different form factors. The biggest plus here is that we can create a scalable design. I mean it almost does not matter what size of the icon you have in illustrator. You can make it double size, 10x size or even 100x size without loss of quality. Since the graphics here based on curves but not on pixels as in Photoshop.


It is a new generation software that economy a bunch of time with its simple interface. It has so good UX that you even do not need to think about how you can do actions that seem difficult in Illustrator. But let's talk about how it improves a work of UX/UI designer. The main point here is that designer can focus on the design solutions rather than how to do it in the software. Graphics created in Sketch is a vector as well as in the Illustrator.

3D Software

Sometimes UX/UI designers use 3ds Max, Cinema 3D or any other alternative software to create something in 3d projection. Especially if we talk about designers who create a design, not for the digital environment, but for the physical world. And to do this they need to create a 3D visualization of objects or interfaces. For instance, it can be an interface for a car, or helicopter pilot panel, DJ players and mixers. Of course, this kind of work starts from sketches that I mentioned before. But before start real production it should be visualized in 3D. It helps to imagine how the end product will look like and avoid different crucial UI mistakes on the 3D visualization stage.

This is not a full list and we can have different skills set. I am just giving you an understanding of this specific category of skills. Meanwhile, we can see what do soft skills mean and what options do we have.

Soft skills

Positive thinking

This is the one of the most important and basic thing that each designer and any creative artist should have. Since, sometimes we have a bunch of negative obstacles that block our creativity, productivity or even make us angry on what we do and how to approach different situations. Thus, it is extremely important to scan for the positive all the time. And, of course, learn from mistakes, but not avoid them. This will help you to find a positive side in a particular situation.

With positive thinking you can do more, better, epic and even change the world making other people happy.

Easy-going person

If you have already handled the first soft skill then this one will be easy for you. We can have different situations in our professional life when people will try to manipulate you, ask you to work on terms that you do not like, comment your work in a way that you do not have any experience to do this job properly, etc. We can have several ways to handle it.

First of all, we can simply avoid working with people who undervalue us and find people working with whom comfortable.

The second one - we can try different approaches working with this type of people and find a compromise that works for both of you. If you can not find this way then back to the first one. If you feel that a lot of energy went away on a particular person or environment then you need to change something.

Sometimes, we tend to search for problems in environment and we think that the only person who is right is you. I have been in this position some time ago. And I assure you this point of view will not bring you good results in life or business.

To become easy going person we just need to search for positive sides of any conversation. Always find what we can learn, listen to people and try to help them if it is necessary.

I know that often it is hard to overstep yourself and serve people who seem not a good fit to do business with. But you will never become an easy going person until you try to make actions in this directions.

Be flexible like a water. Because water has a huge strength and it can change the shape of rocks.


This skill is always useful. It is critical when you solopreneur or even entrepreneur. I think that the first one is clear and you have to organize yourself, make plans, schedule meetings, split 24 hours on different activities to not lost yourself only in working process and feel yourself healthy, share your time with your family, get some rest etc.

In addition to routines that described in the first case entrepreneurs also responsible for their employee and sometimes they need to organize them as well. Show the direction of work, collaborate in a proper way, etc.

You need self-organization even if you work as an employee in a company. Since from the supervisors perspective, it is hard to organize all the details. Especially in a case of big teams with different directions of work. In a modern business environment, each specialist should have an ability to self-organization and be proactive. Suggest ideas, be responsible for the work that you do, plan things to avoid a collapse of your schedule and overwhelming work that will not bring you something good in your life.


In addition to self-organization, I think each designer should be a proactive person. We are not design-servants unless we want it. And we can be passive and do all the actions that clients ask. Because in the most of the cases our clients or supervisors are not designers and they do not have such professional background that we have. Often they do not what they want and what kind of design will satisfy them. Start your conversation with a simple action, why they want to change it in this way. Show your expertise and gain the trust. Offer a solution that should really improve clients service and you both well be happier.

Communication skills

The only important thing that I can say here is that you need to have as much practice as you can. Speak with your clients, supervisor, manager. Try to communicate with different levels of business people. Explore different business and design communities to learn a language on what people talk about projects, startups, business ideas.

Read books. I have a challenge for this year to read at least 54 books. It is equal to 1 boot a week. And it is taking into account that I am not a native speaker and all these books in my list in English (sometimes not plain English).

Listen podcasts. Try to notice intonation, vocabulary, energy that people use in discussions. Go on iTunes and find podcasts that suitable for you and your business. You can find dozens of business, life experience, self-development and even entertainment.

To make your communication skills interesting you need to try different things and speak with different people. It develops creativeness as well.

Collaboration skills

Working solo is good at some point. Mostly, on your personal projects or learning something specific. But when we do commercial design work we start to collaborate with at least one person. It can be your supervisor or client. Often you collaborate with whole teams.

Even if you work from home or coffee shop and you are sitting alone still you have people with whom you collaborate online. Sure, it feels different when you have physical meetings or Skype meetings. But in the modern world, we need to learn both ways of collaboration.

We have a digital nomads era. More and more people tend to work while they are traveling. And it really improves productivity indicators. I have tried and it works perfectly well.

But still we need to learn how to build communication with our clients online or in the office. How to make plans that work for the whole team. For instance, use the agile methodology or any other method that brings good result for your business. Plan timeline of the project and expectations for outcomes at different stages of a project.

Discuss new ideas and make quick sketches to receive feedback instantly from other participants of the brainstorm session.

There is a lot of things that can be included here. People write whole books on team building and management.

Soft and hard skills are both categories that important for each successful designer. I am sure that we can extend this list and learn more to achieve a greater result in our life and professional career. I hope this article was helpful for you.


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