📒 Download Swarm's free starter guide to fractional work!

Back to Swarm Blog

Keeping your mental design game strong

Rafa Dytoc
Product Designer and Design Ops Specialist

Many of us have already reached a point in our lives where we said, “Today, I’m pursuing design.”

For me, that was two years ago. Those days were filled with excitement.

Everything was uncertain — new challenges, learnings, growth, some wins, and losses. I started mine by attending design workshops, meeting amazing people who became my friends and mentors, and joining organizations that advocate for human-centered design.

This eventually led me to becoming a design mentor, too. Fun, right? To be honest, probably not all the time.

Becoming a designer, at least from what I experienced, means that you’ll get to know impostor syndrome, making you think that you’re a less capable designer than what others think of you.

You’ll be anxious because your growth makes you feel like your journey is a competition. But don’t worry, it’s just in your head.

I lived and learned, and I’m here to share with you some reflections from my 2-year design journey.

1. It’s okay to make mistakes.

Being a design mentor means that people around you believe in you. This makes it feel that your life should always be perfect, ideal, and right. Though that seems correct, it’s not always the case. It’s just a mindset you have that’s actually stopping you from bringing out our best self.

Drop the ego — it’s okay not to be okay all the time. You care too much for others to be proud of you that you forget about yourself. Getting to that perfection is hard and ambitious, which is why you end up anxious, doubting yourself in the middle of your daydreams, being skeptical of praises you receive, and crying yourself to sleep because you know you suck.

We’re design mentors. That means we can learn as much as we can teach. Though we are mentors, we can be tunnel-visioned with creating a finished product that we forget about inclusive design practices or designing for accessibility.

It’s okay, we’re humans too. The important part is that we accept our mistakes and grow from them. We become better leaders when we are vulnerable — it allows us to grow and be thoughtful next time over.

2. It’s not only you who’s significant.

Other than feeling that you should always be perfect, being a design mentor can also make you think that you’re better than others.

We have our own perspectives — each never the same with another. We might not see a design problem like the way other people see it. It’s true that you’ve come up with a nice solution but don’t ever forget that others, regardless of labels, can have bigger ideas than you.

As design mentors, it’s your job to let the potential of our mentees shine. It’s never about proving that you’re better. Positions are just positions. Hierarchies can display experience, but it doesn’t say anything about capabilities. We just need to realize that mentorship is not just a one-way thing. The beauty of it comes with the ability for us to learn from them along the way, too.

3. Small things have an impact, too.

Don’t just celebrate the wins, but also acknowledge the failures that helped you become successful. You’ll never know how many aspiring designers out there are having a hard time growing and all they need is to learn the story of how you picked yourself up.

Though it’s ideal to design something big, it’s also okay to start small — explore your design style, learn what you love doing, and be surprised in discovering your design pet peeves. The small things can make the hard ones achievable. In this way, you get to learn more about yourself as a growing designer and make things easier than it would’ve been — like creating your first case study.

Remember that even the smallest things you post online — wins or losses — can inspire another designer’s humble beginnings.

You’re not alone.

There are more things I want to tell myself from a few years back, but it all teaches me to take things easy.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you feel stuck, ask for help; I’m sure we’ll be happy to talk with you. If you feel tired, don’t hesitate to take a break. It’s not about who gets to the finish line first, rather it’s about whose journey is meaningful and purposeful.

  1. Are you allowing yourself to get messy and make mistakes?
  2. Are you opening yourself to others’ feedback?
  3. Are you celebrating your little wins like you do with your big ones?

The best decision in my life was answering yes to all three.

Though the things I’m creating are not close to perfect, at least I get to practice more and learn more from my mentors and my mistakes.

Opening myself to others’ feedback allowed me to be more altruistic and inclusive in my design choices.

And to celebrate my little wins — that’s just my way of keeping my mental game strong. Because all we really need to keep going is a little bit of love and support from the people who’ve cheered for us on our wins, and who didn’t leave us during our falls.

Rafa Dytoc
Product Designer and Design Ops Specialist
Rafa is a product designer and design ops specialist at Swarm. He’s the creative mind behind the UI and interaction design of Swarm’s beta mobile app. Rafa has also led communities such as UX Society and Google Developer Student Clubs.
Product Design
Interaction Design
Visual Design
Design Ops

Ready to take your design journey to the next level?