I’m going to be honest, when it comes to art I am not very good. I am pretty bad at sketching, and I am awful at painting. I’ve loved creating art my entire life but honestly I just feel I don’t have what it takes to be as good as I’d like to be. This deficit in my skill set had really put me off icon design for awhile, so I stuck with layout and typography because it doesn’t require as much coordination. Eventually though, I started getting brave and I found that my icon work far exceeds my traditional art, which isn’t actually saying a whole lot but it’s true.
It’s a Different Skill Set
Just because you can only draw stick figures when given a pen and paper doesn’t mean a whole lot in the world of digital design. It’s an entirely different toolset that depends on a different part of your creative brain. For example, if you’re a musician you may not be able to play piano, but you can really rock on guitar. While the same rules of music apply, the skill set required is a little different.
Design and digital illustration take a lot of cues from traditional forms of art, from how color is used to visually pleasing compositions. But knowing these rules doesn’t rely on you having the skills to paint a masterpiece, so anybody can learn. The tools themselves are vastly different, unless you’re using a Wacom tablet (which I own, but hardly ever use).
Most designers I know (including myself) use a mouse as their primary drawing implement, which is a pretty precise instrument. Combined with design software you are able to draw and manipulate shapes in a way that isn’t afforded by analog tools. While sketching and painting is an exercise in coordination, digital design is an exercise in patience. I like to think of it as sculpting in three dimensions.
Just Do It!
I know this is the title, but I’m going to drill it in one more time for good measure: You don’t have to be an artist to be a great designer!
I don’t want to give the impression that digital design is easier, or less worthwhile. It’s just suited to a different kind of talent. There are world class designers out there who couldn’t paint to save their lives, so you really have no excuse to try.
Life is about taking risks, and trying to learn a new skill has among the best risk/reward ratios out there. But you can’t just give it a couple tries and give up, you have to stick with it. Maybe you’ll find it’s just not something your suited for, or maybe you end up not enjoying the work as much as you thought, that is perfectly fine. Don’t avoid taking a risk because you’re not as good as you’d like to be in another area of skill.