Concept design is a big area that deals with other areas. But it stops a step before planning starts and always remains a bit ephemeral. Deciding to bet on yourself and base your concept design career only on this phase can create many problems.
I have 8+ years of experience in designing, and I build a career using only concept design which was my mistake because nobody wanted to talk with me or saw my portfolio. They asked only one question: “Do you have more real works that we can touch?”.
If you are reading this article, you probably already know what we’re talking about and want to see my point of view. But if you don’t have clear ideas, you should know that in design, the concept is a project proposal necessary to define the fundamental elements of a project and provides the basis for its realization.
Deciding to work as a creative means trusting your intuition a lot. Knowing how to use the right tools obviously makes the difference at the end of the job. But it is required to have a continuous flow of ideas and to never be short of inspiration.
Originality and creativity are the fundamental part of this profession but are they sufficient? In a world that is always more and more oriented towards standardization and mass production, is it really possible to be creative? Or do we become replicas of ourselves? That of the concept design is a difficult profession for many reasons.
In fact, concept designs are not so popular nowadays, because we have too many concepts nowadays around us. Look at Behance or Dribbble for instance.
Don’t let Behance ruin your concept design career as a professional, see why. Let’s see what are the common mistakes that the choice of this profession leads us to commit.
For me, there are seven typical mistakes a designer can do. What are they?
1. You are not limited by timing or deadlines
One of the greatest advantages of having a concept design career is that of being able to manage time independently.
The concept designer, in fact, has the possibility, as a freelance, to manage the project independently, defining the steps, the hypothetical deadlines but without accounting to any delays or a defined deadline.
Anyone who works as an employee will think that is an amazing life. But unfortunately, it is not so.
Instead of losing stress it increases! And that because you lead to continuing working non-stop until you reach the desired result. This generates small problems that in a long period of time, can lead to unstable health situations.
If there are no defined break times, you will tend to eat in an unhealthy way, sleep little and don’t do enough physical movement. Even the little breaks to stretch one’s legs will be just ignored.
However, there are also individuals who manage to tackle projects very easily. Even in this case, however, we must not think that everything is perfect. Usually, these are people who, if moved to projects with defined deadlines, for example in case of a job change, will not be able to cope with the work pressure or to respect deadlines.
2. You are not UX thinker anymore
Another big risk is that of not being able to think about the practicality of the project.
This is because the concept designer, without some indications from a manufacturer or a developer, could decide to sacrifice usability to aesthetics. And then, do only what he likes.
Of course, aesthetics has its importance. By providing the content in an elegant and structured way, you can ensure that a user gets what they came for. But we all know very well that “beautiful and useless” is not something that can be spent on the labor market.
The concept design, in fact, must be placed at the service of both user-side usability and content. Otherwise, it will be just a nice graphic but lacking functionality and completely useless. Having a good idea and creating the right concept is certainly the first step to hit a potential customer.
However, we need to be able to produce a functional concept that supports all the needs of a potential customer and that also affects the users who will use the finished product. A certain balance is required but it is easy for someone having a concept design career to forget it.
3. You care only about likes and shares
And then there’s the social side. You care about social networking only and how many comments, shares, and hearts will get your project. The concept designer easily forgets that whoever puts likes and hearts is a user, not a potential customer. It’s nice to see that your work is appreciated but you don’t pay rent with likes. Unless you are an influencer.
But we’re talking about concept designers, not fashion bloggers. Sharing and likes and hearts are useful if they serve to do network and if they are generated in a specific social place, related to work (LinkedIn is more useful to find a job than Facebook, remember it). But they are not the ones that will lead us to find customers or a good job in a company.
4. You become a thief
When something is trendy and get viral – you instantly want to copy that style and create something new, but from yourself. Obviously, one thing is to go in search of inspiration and good ideas.
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Another one is copying. Browsing jobs on other concept designer portfolios to find inspiration is a common habit. But from taking as an example, to totally stealing other people works, the step is very short.
Let’s be clear: reworking a good idea with your own style is still stealing an idea. It is not nice to copy from your colleagues but inevitably you end up doing it.
5. You are not able to do the practical job
Mainly dealing with the concept means knowing the grid very well. But not necessarily be able to really use it. Also, when you are doing concept projects, sometimes you are just ignoring some logical parts (our favourite UX part) which are fine to have in your fictional project. But I bet you will have the problems when it comes to the real project.
Concept design is one thing, the real developing design is another. In fact, not all concept designers are complete designers. And when it comes to moving to the practical, there may be problems that make you realize that you are not able to do a real job (understood as practical and not just concept).
In fact, those who work as creatives often tend to forget about the feasibility and remain one step behind the others who will be able to manage the entire project and also the customer.
Presenting complete projects and not just those visible in the portfolio makes a big difference and is a great way to find new customers or get hired.
6. You’re are not enough competitive
Another sore point is competitiveness. A portfolio of excellent concepts is certainly a good presentation. Unfortunately, it is not enough. Indeed, it could be a huge disadvantage if none of those concepts came to the development stage.
In fact, customers are no longer willing to rely on creativity alone. They need something concrete to touch. And if you have only good ideas, it will not be enough for you to get the job.
More and more enthusiasts, often lacking with preparation, are improvised concept designers. And this also penalizes people like you who have been doing it for many years.
The difference in the choice will be the possibility of seeing the projects and the concepts created. To develop a whole project, in fact, is very different from the simple management of the concept.
First of all, you will need to be able to manage the customer, understand his needs and realize not only the concept and graphic design. In fact, the simple creative idea will not be enough to make everything work. Your competitors are probably already equipped in other areas such as development, SEO and content design.
7. Your expectations are different
Another aspect not to be underestimated is the expectation. As a result of practicing, designing perfect grids with an attractive design, your graphics skills will surely have grown a lot.
But not all projects are the same and what you have learned in one, it is not always replicable in another. Furthermore working concept after concept will help you grow but will also make you a slave of yourself.
The more time will pass the more you will want to show off your skills, forcing you to dare more and more and always look for new and great ideas. And all this will make you leave out other important parts like the SEO and content strategy.
In fact, having the best design ever do not necessarily mean that you have a good product. But above all, it does not mean having a product that works. Is it really worth it?
Taking all these points, it almost seems that concept design is a self-destructive profession.
In reality, like any other profession, it involves sacrifices and a certain personal balance.
By telling you about my experience I hope you can take it as an example.
Not finding a balance between the various activities that make up a good project can be penalizing. The concept design works only if it is part of a good mechanism, if it works well with the other parts and if it allows obtaining a real result (that can be touched by the customers).
Hoping to build a concept design career on likes is unrealistic. We need to work and grow, learning and working. It is not enough to find the right inspiration and create something that can become viral.
We need functional concepts and remind ourselves that to find customers, good ideas are no longer enough.