99U’s best tips for ensuring longevity in your design career

Kelsey Bryant

There’s so many factors that go into a longterm design career, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What’s the 5 year plan? How do you get your work where it needs to be when you’re struggling with a creative block? Do you follow the crowd or break out on your own?

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite articles from 99U that expand on these tough questions. Learn about the design legends who broke into the biz late in the career, develop your personal creative strategy, and find out how to structure your brainpower and environment to be the best you can be!


Want a long career? Zig when everyone else zags.

Fred Seibert is the king of downplay. He will be the first to tell you he doesn’t have a ton of skills—that his success is just something that happened to him and wasn’t the result of any calculated plan.

But Seibert can afford the humility, because his work often precedes him. Chances are, if you’ve watched television in the past 20 years, you’ve seen Seibert’s work. The MTV logo? Seibert. Nickelodeon in the late ‘90s? Also Seibert. Nick-at-Nite? Powerpuff Girls? Dextor’s Laboratory? Adventure Time? Seibert had a hand in them all. (read more)

5 design legends that switched gears in the middle of their careers

Conventional wisdom is that the design world doesn’t generally reward dabblers. We often hear romanticized versions of career paths that depend on years and years of perfecting a specific craft.

Of course, mastery is found by deliberately practicing and improving. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have license to switch gears when needed.Reality is messy and our lives often wander a bit as we explore our path, and the greats were no exception. Here, we’ll explore five of the legends in graphic design and highlight how they changed gears in their career. (read more)

Yuko Shimizu: Make your own path

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson once quipped that the three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a weekly salary. There are numerous stories of the young buck going solo. But rare is the professional over a decade into her career tossing aside the steady paycheck and making the uncertain leap into the freelance life.

After 11 years in the PR business, illustrator Yuko Shimizu decided to pursue her dream as an artist. Now, with accolades from The Art Directors Club to The Yellow Pencil Award and many Spectrum Fantastic Art Awards, the Japanese native is one of the most celebrated illustrators of our era. (read more)


Can’t picture where you’ll be in 5 years? Find your strategy.

I’ve taken up a new habit of asking successful people I know: What is your career strategy? I ask it casually, and in person, because I want to see their body language and get a sense of just how front-of-mind their answer might be. (read more)

The perfect workspace (according to science)

The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave. This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance. Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.

When it comes to building your workspace you can aim for the trendy look and flick through some interior design mags, or you can let science guide the way. Based on recent psychology and neuroscience findings, here are some simple and effective steps you can take once to improve your productivity for years… (read more)

How to apply lateral thinking to you creative work

Pretend that you’re trapped in a magical room with only two exits. Through the first exit is a room made from a giant magnifying glass, and the blazing hot sun will fry you to death. Through the second door is a room with a fire-breathing dragon. Which do you go through? The first door, of course. Simply wait until the sun goes down.

The answer to this puzzle is an example of what psychologists call “lateral thinking.” The most elegant solution presents itself when you approach the problem sideways, rather than answering it head-on. Though the question is presented as a binary choice—one option or the other—when you disregard the assumption that you must act immediately, the “best” answer becomes obvious. (read more)

How have you found long-lasting success in your design career? Share in the comments!

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not running the designer blog, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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