7 killer career tips from the world's smartest designers

04. Agnieszka Gasparska

Agnieszka Gasparska, founder of the studio Kiss Me I'm Polish, talked about how she finally decided to formalise her freelancing into a business and open an office space.

"Eventually this fantasy of doing work in my private space and having the quiet to do meaningful work got to be a bit much. It changed the energy of my space, to have that kind of stress and responsibility at home. I missed being around other people and I also felt like there is something to be said for the division of private and work space. I missed the idea of coming home after work.

"So, the studio practice started from my need to have a separate space and also that I wanted to have people work with me. I needed help and I didn't want to have people coming and working in my kitchen."

05. Karen McGrane

Karen McGrane, founder of Bond Art+Science talked about navigating the winds of the technology industry, and being aware of coming changes.

"I'm extremely happy with the type of work that I'm doing and with the client relationships that I have. They're bringing me in as a trusted adviser, so I have this unique positioning that directly addresses one of their pain points, and I feel like I've succeeded quite well in that. This will probably only last a few years. As organisations are making this transition to mobile, it seems like this will be the kind of thing that's not competitive for only a couple of years before I will either have to shift gears a little bit or deal with a more competitive environment. I'm not sure, but right now it's great. Total green fields."

It's interesting that you already see the end of this, this era that you're revelling in.

"I think that's inherent to working on the web and working in this space. I've seen so many transitions. You think this era is going to last forever, but then it actually only lasted three years, just like the last one. I have definitely been putting a two-to-five-year timeline on this, what's going on with the mobile web right now, or more broadly mobile publishing practices, to help organisations figure out how they're going to deal with true multi-channel publishing. Most organisations are going to have dealt with that question within the next five years."

06. Cemre Gungor

Cemre Gungor, co-founder of Branch, which was later acquired by Facebook, talked about how he transitioned to managing other designers.

"[It was] tough. It wasn't only tough for me, it was also tough for the dynamics with Josh [our CEO] and Julius, our other designer. Because in the designing process before, we would actually flesh out a lot of the aspects of Josh's idea for the product, so I felt like I was able to influence what we were building even though my job title was 'designer'

"In those conversations, I would nudge the product here and there to a place that I felt more confident with. In this process, I was also doing product work. We weren't super aware of the fact that we have to basically strategise the product before we start designing. Then when we added Julius, I realised the conversations that I'd have with Josh—about whether we should be building this, whether this is the right time, whether the fidelity or the size of this project is inappropriate—we'd have them on the go. And this was Julius' first product design job at a web startup and he didn't have the experience to start asking us questions."

07. Naz Hamid

Naz Hamid, founder of Weightshift, talked about why he has firmly maintained his design studio's independence over the years.

"In part I love the idea of independence because it harkens back to some of the ideals I had when I was growing up. I'd seen what reliance and dependence had done to my family in some ways, and I always swore that I'd not be tied to something for my livelihood or for the direction of my life to be dependent on something else. I like being able to control it as much as possible, even though some people might have said, 'This would have been a better career decision if you had done this seven years ago.'

"I think some people look at career progression as a means to some kind of infamy or monetary goal, whereas for me it's about, 'Am I happy? Am I doing what feels right to me?' Just giving myself gut checks as much as possible. But I always want to control it as much as possible. Growing Weightshift beyond just myself was a step in that direction. Just to say, 'What's it like to work with other people on a consistent basis, and who do I want to work with?'

"Scott [Robbin] has played a huge role in the success of Weightshift in recent years. For me, it comes down to "Yes, I want to work with cool people, but I want to work with people that have very closely aligned life goals or vision for how they want to work and how they want their lives to be." I found that in Scott."

Words: Khoi Vinh

Khoi Vinh is a designer, writer and entrepreneur, and one of Fast Co's 50 Most Influential Designers in America. Buy How They Got There here.

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