Are you making the most of Twitter? James Parker explains how engaging with the design community can make you better at your job.
Earlier this year I was kindly asked to speak at the very first MK Geek Night. I started pondering the subject for my talk, looking at all the things over the last year that had made a real difference to the way I work. The usual bits and pieces got jotted down such as software, conferences, and new technologies. But, the thing that stood out the most was the way in which I communicate using Twitter, a tool that 12 months earlier I had vehemently opposed.
I decided to name my talk 'How Twitter made me a better designer', because looking back over that first year of engaging with it, I realised how much I relied on using it.
Before registering my account I had the rather naïve view that Twitter was a tool to just chat with friends and talk nonsense, but I'd overlooked something really important, and that's how it could be integrated as part of my standard workflow. Fundamental things such as sharing work with peers, meeting new clients, and learning more about what's happening in the industry, these were all things that would have been hugely beneficial when I was a junior trying to find my feet!
So, if you're looking to start a career in design, or you already have but not registered an account on Twitter, here are three key benefits to consider.
1. It builds confidence
We've all been in crit sessions where our work's been under the spotlight, and I think it's safe to say that getting other designers to study your work and give their opinions can be a bit daunting to start with. Twitter removes the face-to-face element from showcasing your work, which not only takes some of that stress away, but it also means that you're getting a much wider cross-section of opinion. The ability to discuss about your work in real-time also means you can capitalise on feedback with time sensitive projects.
2. It helps you to develop your opinions
Having an opinion is possibly the most important factor of what we do as designers. It only took a few follows of familiar faces in the industry to start seeing discussions (and arguments) flying about my Twitter timeline. I was amazed at how often the debates kicked-off, and I was equally amazed and how quickly I got stuck in!
The huge benefit of doing this is that we're able to start articulating design rationale, and build up the confidence to defend our opinions. These are invaluable traits to have, especially for when you're presenting and pitching.
3. It improves R&D
As a junior I was spending every waking moment doing R&D, trying to figure out how the hell I was going to solve a design or development issue for the next day in the studio. But, the nocturnal lifestyle doesn't suit most of us, people settle down, have families, and generally get much less time to spend on R&D.
Using Twitter, I found that by following people relevant to you, and having a Twitter roll on screen while you work, you're able to cherry pick the bits of information that you're genuinely interested in. If you're searching for a solution to a problem, ask an expert by sending them a quick tweet, and the likelihood is that you'll get a friendly, and hopefully useful, response.
Not only is this a great way to streamline your workflow, but it also means that everything you read is current and up-to-date, something that a Google search can't always guarantee!
As basic as they might sound, I believe the values that these three elements evoke can help form the foundations of any budding design career. Creativity doesn't just derive from natural talent, it comes from exploring what's going on around you and exposing yourself to things that might be out of your comfort zone or simply out of reach. Twitter for me is a place I can discuss my ideas and feed my knowledge, it's a tool I now rely on every day. Look at it another way: people spend a fortune attending conferences each and every year, but as fantastic as they are while they last, Twitter gives us the opportunity to engage with the design community 24/7 and it doesn't cost a thing!
Words: James Parker
What do you have to say about Twitter? Share your positive and negative experiences in the comments.