How to look impressive without impressive projects or past jobs

Some designers have worked at companies like Airbnb and Nike. They have impactful projects in their portfolio. They glide into new jobs.

But what if you’re an absolute loser like me?

Here are 10 (not at all easy) ways to look good and impress other people.

Become an expert in a niche/specialist topic

Learn so much that you become the go-to person on accessibility. Or visual design (it me). Or design systems (it everyone else).

Read all the books. Seek out the forbidden knowledge. Build a moat out of the stuff in your brain.

Perfect a niche/specialist skill

Really good animation looks cool. So learn how to do that. Or be the best information designer. As long as other people value it.

I believe in you. It’ll only take you five years of gruelling effort.

Make a beautiful portfolio

Craft a website that designers swoon over. Pixel-perfect details in every corner.

Like that one scene in Pulp Fiction, where they open the briefcase and golden light shines out? But with a web browser, and it’s your portfolio.

Make beautiful mock-ups

Everyone finds good visual design impressive. So make the best, and share it around. You think people are going to be annoyed that you’ve shoved something beautiful under their nose? NO. They’re going to thank you and fall at your feet.

Make impressive interaction demos

Design the best interactions. Full of fiddle factor. Record videos of them in action. Whack ’em on the internet.

Become a mentor

Share what you know with other designers. Not only does this show that you know things, it also helps you refine how you share what you know with others.

Network with community regulars

Go to all of the events. Speak to everyone. Show interest in their work. Talk about your work, but don’t boast. Keep in touch with them.

Get impressive testimonials

As you impress people more and more, they’ll say impressive things about you. Write those things down. Put them in public places. Social proof, baby.

Gain a lot of Twitter followers

You know what everyone loves, even if they won’t admit it? Big numbers. 10,000 followers on Twitter? People assume you must be doing SOMETHING right.

Create a popular design resource

Write a book. Create a course. Make a wallpaper pack. Give it away for free. Or charge for it. Either way, make something that other people want, and make a note of how many people wanted it. More big numbers.