6 mins | 22 Dec, 2021

Overcoming imposter syndrome: My best tips for new designers

Going into my first role as a UX/UI Designer, I felt a mix of nerves and excitement for my first job. I rather spontaneously applied to Userism even though Manchester was 5 hours away from where I lived. I liked the idea of somewhere different and getting to experience a new place (as I had only gone down the road for university.) The move was a bit daunting but relatively stress-free, helped by the fact I had already eased into the role a month prior.

Applying for a role where you don’t tick every box can be scary but I urge young designers and graduates to do it. I knew I had a lot of learning to do but I was committed to it (and there was also nothing to lose by sending a cv.)

Before the summer I had a masters offer to study Human-Computer interaction design at City University of London but I had this feeling that it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was pretty burnt out from my Bachelor’s especially from working at home for the whole of final year due to lockdown. I also knew I could learn more in a work setting so I decided to apply for jobs and see where I was at by the end of summer.

I had been looking for a place that valued learning and it was becoming impossible- everywhere expected me to have years of experience and know things that weren’t even taught on my course. I was becoming very disheartened; at points even questioning if I should be a designer! The constant rejections or getting to the final interview, is enough to knock anyone’s confidence but I found the more interviews I did, the more I was getting better. I improved the way I spoke about my work and I felt more ready for the questions they would ask. By the end of summer, I was drained but determined.

After my first interview with Userism, I left feeling very impressed and excited at the prospect of working there (something that I had started to slowly lose over the course of applications.) The value and emphasis they placed on learning really stood out to me and they made me feel ‘normal’ for not knowing everything.

Fast forward 4 months and I’ve picked up a tonne of learning and improved as a designer. I now even look back at my work from university and cringe a little (and that was only this year.) I’ve found it really useful to keep my notes in the form of articles so I can refer back to them when needed.

Learning curves

Writing this article, I began to think about what I could say to recent graduates going into their first design role. If working has taught me anything, it’s that it’s okay to be scared. It’s also completely normal to get things wrong. In my first few weeks, I felt like I was repeatedly failing when in reality I was just learning.

Imposter syndrome

Starting my first project I was excited but had this feeling of imposter syndrome holding me back. I convinced myself I had forgotten how to do everything over the summer and it was my design manager that helped me to overcome this. He made me see things from a different perspective and made the big tasks seem a lot less scary. One of the main aspects I struggled with was finding inspiration for designs. I felt as if I had to come up with these unique ideas but I learnt that actually re-using conventions helps user’s by giving them a familiar experience.

I was recommended the book ‘Don’t make me think’ by Steve Krug and it was really useful in helping me think about how to approach the work. He mentions don’t waste time reinventing the wheel unless it’s going to make a big impact. With the help from my manager and the book, I was able to recognise that looking for inspiration, doesn’t mean copying.

Userism were good enough to allow me some personal development time every morning. Reading at the start of the day has been really useful in terms of my development and I’ve found sites like Medium a great tool to read about other like-minded designers, current trends and good standard practice. Beyond this Userism has also encouraged me to get Google Accredited, which I’m working toward with the Google UX Design Course. This has helped me tremendously in grasping the foundations of UX (something I wasn’t taught too much of at university.) It takes around 6 months but doesn’t feel tedious like most courses - the work is actually very enjoyable, interesting and I highly recommend it to anyone starting out.

One of the biggest realisations I had starting here at Userism, was how much university only scratches the surface of design. Understandably the course can only teach you so much of one unit and so I found my first couple of months feeling as if I didn’t know enough. I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t quite up to scratch in terms of speed and knowledge.

On reflection, I realised that no one was actually telling me I wasn’t quick enough, in fact, I was being encouraged to take my time. Instead, I was putting pressure on myself to be perfect when actually it was all part of the learning process. I think as a junior designer it can be easy to feel as if you’re failing just because you don’t know something but it’s important to remember, no one expects you to know it all.

Another lesson is asking for opinions on your work. I would put off reviewing my designs for so long or until I felt I had perfected them. This not only wastes time but also puts massive stress on you! A great method I was taught by my design manager was the ‘fail fast’ method. This focuses on getting out the designs quickly from a macro perspective and then, focusing on the micro elements. It helped because by producing work quicker, I was able to detect failures and notice whether an idea had any value earlier on.

Fail fast approach


Having only been at Userism for 4 months, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress and I’m proud of the work I’ve produced. Each project teaches me something new and I like that I’m never working on the same thing for too long. It can be fast-paced but I like this way of working and it definitely makes me feel like a productive designer. One day I might be working on some icons for a site, the next I could be doing a full-scale wireframe; it’s never boring.

I feel like I’ve grown as a designer and as a person. My confidence has improved and I’m slowly creating more goals for myself. Going into the new year I’m especially excited to start the new projects and learn more about conducting UX research. I still get nervous at the prospect of a new brief but I know that will ease over time (I hope!) I’m also loving Manchester and excited to explore more of the city.

I was asked by my manager to think of 5 things I would tell new designers to help them through their first few months. So I’ll start with the simple ones…

  1. Find as much inspiration as you can when designing. (Inspiration comes in many forms and there is loads of it.)

  2. Keep articles and notes of what you learn (This is super helpful to refer back to when you’re stuck or need a refresher.)

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback (review, review, review!)

  4. Fail fast. (Don’t get caught up in a design - “Perfection is the enemy of the good”)

But, my biggest lesson for young designers is don’t let imposter syndrome take over; it may not be instant (I still have it) and to be honest, it will likely stick around. The best thing is to remind yourself that your skills got you where you are today. I often find it refreshing to know that even senior designers suffer from it, so when you’re finding it hard, reach out to a colleague and also make sure to keep track of your progress to prove to yourself what you know.

Explore our services

Got a project in mind?