A Creative Critical Self-Assessment: Graphic Design

I took a critical look at my fiction writing a few months ago, but found that assessing my graphic design practice actually felt more painful. While I subscribe to the tenet ‘you are not your work,’ I make a living from my graphic design and exposing my flaws felt more personal. But as a professional, I need to constantly improve my craft so that I continue to make products I’m proud of and that fulfill the needs of my workplace and clients.

Flaws and Foibles in my Graphic Design

While I’m satisfied with my products, my process could be improved.


Concepts for a logo on paper.

  • Tendency towards Excess – I need to be careful of over-design in early mockups.
  • Thinking on Paper – while I sketch lots of concepts for logo designs, I have a tendency to jump straight to the computer first when I’m designing for print – especially posters or postcards with a lot of type.
  • Print Testing – I’ll admit that I don’t know how to color calibrate my monitor, and I frequently forget to print test before I share mockups with my colleagues for review. Print testing can highlight issues in both color and type sizing.
  • Expanding Design Solutions – I’ve developed a style that accommodates my illustration talents and outdoor, handmade aesthetic – while I believe that’s valuable and a sign of my confidence as a designer, I also am wary of neglecting alternative design solutions that might serve the problem better. As they say, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I am loathe to say it, but seeking *gasp* inspiration by paying attention to other designers may help prevent my design from stagnating.
  • Typographic Combinations – combining typefaces is a skill I continue to practice, though I continue to feel mystified despite doing research into typefaces. Being self-taught, I feel I’m lacking in a historic understanding of typefaces that would improve my confidence in my type pairings.

My Graphic Design Skills and Successes

swooping horned owl by Tracy Durnell

An illustration I did for fun for Liminal Stories.

I’m pleased with my ability to produce high quality work, and am especially effective at long document design. But what makes my work stand out — and this is something to remember as my career moves forward — is my combination of digital illustration and design.

  •  Effective Use of Tools – I can design quickly thanks to knowing my software (especially InDesign) and using the appropriate program for the appropriate task, in combination to create a finished design.
  • Detail-Oriented – I attribute my early years in web design to a pixel-perfect attitude, but I’ve long had a sharp eye for detail.
  • Knowing When to Ship – despite my attention to detail, I ship my end products. I do, I’ll admit, complete a thorough final check before submitting files to print ;) I’ve grown to appreciate the concept of wabi-sabi, beauty either despite or through imperfection.
  • Type Setting – my early design career focused on long document design, which paired well with my background in web design. I love focusing on readability, and continue to learn the value of accessibility in design.
  • Illustration – my illustration skills differentiate and enhance my designs.
  • Aesthetic – I’ve refined a style that makes use of my digital illustration and skills dealing with body type.

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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  1. Pingback: A Writer's Critical Self-EvaluationCascadia Inspired

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