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Marketing Design Dispatch

Issue #20 - Zach Grosser on moving into other design services

Published almost 3 years ago • 4 min read

PRE-S: Tomorrow I'm hosting an Office Hours on my YouTube channel at 5pm CEST (that's 11am Eastern / 8am Pacific). It'll be a chance to ask questions, get design career advice, and most importantly get feedback on your portfolio! Hope to see you there.

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Hi Reader,

This week's issue of the dispatch is guest-written by my talented Twitter-friend-turned-irl-friend Zach Grosser.

Zach is the founder of Zacht Studios (a presentation design agency) and he also hosts Bézier podcast: a show that aims to amplify voices in the design community that we don't get to hear from as often.

Zach has had a super interesting career and is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. Today he's going to share with you some advice for taking on new types of design work.

Take it away Zach!


An image of Zach! He's wearing a black hoodie under a denim jacket, standing outside in front of some autumnal trees

To start, thanks so much for the opportunity to share a note here, Charli!

How to move into other design services

Often there is a conversation about how to pivot from marketing design to product design or print design to web. First, I don't think it's always necessary to keep rigid walls around your work. Especially if you are a freelancer, junior designer, or one of few designers in an organization. This is often contextualized as a "generalist" role vs. getting into a particular niche (I happen to know a thing or two about niche design roles!)

Plus, there is a whole parallel conversation about "T" and "H" shaped designers — generalizing while also specializing in 1 or 2 areas, respectively.

I like to think about taking on new types of work, like learning new web design skills for example, as finding other ways to bring value to my clients. When I worked at Square, a lot of my work was for other teams within the company, so maybe you have internal clients in that case. These opportunities are also great excuses for me to insert personal development into any project work.

No matter how we want to look at this, you are trying to add another tool or skill to your repertoire and it can be overwhelming to think about those potential focus-areas shifts because of their ripple effects down your career path.

Here are some things that will help:

Taking on a learning mindset

There's also the overused adage of "fake it 'til you make it." But there is some truth and nuance there.

In 2018, I started working at design tool startup Figma as the design education manager. My goal at the outset was to write a book on the fundamentals of design. The idea being that Figma, having a free tier and the ability to run on virtually any computer, was bringing access to potential designers that previously had barriers to getting into the industry — and more importantly expressing themselves creatively. If we also offered a free course (we quickly pivoted away from a print book as the main vehicle for this goal) on how to be successful at the basic building blocks of design, we would also gain loyal customers and advocates. All while strengthening and elevating a global design community.

Very quickly, my job role changed. I was suddenly the first Community Advocate in Europe, traveling to a different major city every two weeks to meet with current and potential enterprise customers by day and co-host community meetups in the evening. This is where the learning mindset comes in.

It's beyond the core idea of always being in a state of wanting to learn and grow. It's about embracing your instincts and experiences to become an expert in a new area for you. I was constantly reflecting on what I wanted as a customer of Figma, what I need from companies whose services I depend on to succeed in my career. And immediately turning those into lessons and then executing on plans to grow our community. This was pretty foreign to me, and I felt like I was laying down train tracks in front of my train as it was going.

In hindsight I was learning a ton about community building and organization. And I attribute a lot of my growth to 1) the amazing people I was meeting and working with, and 2) running into this learning environment without worrying about how it would change my career path.

You can dip toes into different waters as you get interested, trends come and go, or when a project demands it.

The Gap

Ira Glass talks about the creative gap between knowing something looks good, but not being able to create it. This is a valuable step in your journey to becoming a great designer. Understanding what works, what looks good to you, and building toward it. Ira Glass's advice for beginner creatives.

Screenshot of the first frame of a video, showing the word 'TASTE' painted over a landscape image

The Gap always applies; it's not just for newer creatives. You can be new to mobile app layout, you can be new to billboard artwork, you can be new to any design specialization of which there are a lot.

I love watching this from time to time to remind myself that not knowing how to successfully execute on my ideas and aspirations isn't a symptom of me being "not good enough," but of me having taste!

It also helps me remember that as much as I can become an expert at one particular thing, I'm always a beginner at something else and need to maintain that beginner mindset too!

Learning from others

I am a huge proponent of self-development and self-guided learning. However, one of the best ways to grow and learn is from others. It is why I believe in hiring people more talented than myself (and getting out of their way!). Another place I go to learn from other creatives is directly to the source. Chi Lee and I interview creatives from around the world on our design podcast, Bézier.

A screenshot of the Bézier website description, which says: "Bézier is a design interview podcast amplifying voices in our creative communities that don’t already have large platforms and aren’t working at the big 5 tech companies. We focus on finding guests from all over the world and representative of as many of us as possible—not your average podcast guests!"

I originally started Bézier because, aside from Design Life, I wasn’t really happy with the state of design podcasts. Most of them highlighting the same designers, mostly cis straight white men, within the Bay Area and working at the top 5 tech companies. Like Charli mentioned, I wanted to amplify voices from all around our creative communities.

Listen to our latest episode, or Chi’s original interview so you can get to know my co-host too!


Thanks for reading! There are lots of projects for you to check out if you'd like to find more content from me: As mentioned, I host Bézier, the creative interview podcast.

I write and share resources at presentation.design, I'm pretty active on Twitter, and I've recently started posting to YouTube. All those links and more are on my site: zachgrosser.com.

AND you are welcome to reach out to me directly at zg@zacht.studio

Have a great day!

Zach

Marketing Design Dispatch

by Charli Marie

Join 17,000+ creatives receiving insider insights about brand and marketing design – featuring landing page and rebrand breakdowns, useful career content, and a behind-the-scenes look at running a Brand Studio team in tech.

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