Ageism in the Design World

This is a guest post written by Nicole Foster. Nicole Foster is a professional website designer who loves to help businesses and other designers succeed. She offers various custom design services for all types of businesses. Follow her on Twitter or Like her onFacebook.

Being a teenager in the design world is tough. You’re an outcast, a minority, but also somebody very unique. However, some people believe teenagers can’t compare to their older, more “experienced” designer counterparts. This is a form of Ageism, which is defined as “stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age” (Wikipedia). This mentality is common across all generations, and is a problem because it discourages teenagers from being passionate about design. It makes them question their abilities and feel less talented than an older designer.

Don’t let this discourage you from enjoying the world of design though. Being a designer at a young age allows you to learn more and start your future career earlier. Personally, I started designing websites 6 years ago when I was 12 years old, and I was able to absorb more information on design and programming than people older than me. Nonetheless, I experienced ageism several times since I started my freelance business in 2008, but using these tips, I was able to combat it and prove myself as a competent designer despite my age. Implement these basic tips and you will begin getting the respect you deserve.

Create a Professional Online Image

As a designer, it’s important to have an online presence. You can reach out to other designers, potential employers or potential clients through social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. However, younger people often use them for their personal lives and do not consider how this could affect their image. Separate your personal life from your professional life with these tips:

Dress Professionally

When it comes to impressing people, your appearance is the first thing somebody will look at. If you’re looking to impress people and have them take you seriously as a designer, then you need to dress like you want the job, the client, or the respect.

For Girls – When I was 16, I invested in a suit jacket and it was the best investment for my business. I was able to snag one at a Calvin and Klein’s outlet mall for only $60, so I would suggest searching through department stores and outlet malls for great deals on suit jackets. Underneath the suit jacket, find a simple, one color tank top in any color you like. I usually wear blue to convey professionalism or pink to appeal to my female clients. Lastly, black dress pants and small heals will create the perfect professional look to impress employers, clients and other designers.

For Boys – If you have the money, a full suit and tie combination will do wonders, but cheaper alternatives will be just as effective. An alternative to a full suit is to get a button-up shirt with a complimentary tie. Any color can work for boys, but be aware of the psychology behind the color you choose. Also, buy matching dress pants and comfortable work shoes to complete the look. You can find this all at your nearest department store for affordable prices. As long as you have a complete look, you will be able to gain the respect you deserve.

How to Present Yourself – Now that you have the right outfit, you will need to learn how to present yourself properly to other designers or employers in person. The number one rule is to always shake the hand of the person(s) you are meeting. Never shake too hard or too fast, but a handshake conveys your maturity and will gain you respect immediately. During the meeting or chat, always listen and smile. As long as you create a productive conversation and keep things friendly, the other person will be impressed with your professionalism and they will forget the stereotypes of teenagers.

Have Business Cards

Lastly, and most importantly, have a set of business cards and always carry them with you. You never know when a friend, family member or potential employer could be interested in your design skills, and a business card with your contact information will be the perfect gateway to respect.

Have a Unique, Personalized Design – Every designer has a different style and that should be reflected on your business card. Generally, the business card will reflect the style of your website, but if you do not have one, then base it off a style that describes your personality. Simplicity is the key for effective business cards because it will save you on printing costs, but don’t be afraid to get creative, and stand out. If you have a nice set of business cards you can pass around, it will add to your professional look.

Include the Right Contact Information – Always make sure to include several different ways for people to contact you on your business card. On my business card, I include my website, my phone number, and email address. This allows for potential clients to call, email or learn more about my services on my website. At the least, I would suggest your website link and email if you are not comfortable with giving away your phone number. The more contact options you have, the more likely the person will get a hold of you.

Hand Them Out – Just hand them out to friends, family, teachers, etc. and encourage them to recommend you to people they know. Get them in front of as many people as possible by putting them up on community bulletin boards, business fronts and other places you can think of. The more seen your business cards are, the better your image as a designer will be.

Have any tips of your own?

I recognize there are many other things you can do to be respect in the design world despite your age, but these are basic tips that will benefit you in the long run. In the comment section below, share what you did to defeat ageism and gain the respect you deserve. Also, post any questions you have about this topic; I am very willing to answer any questions and give tips that have personally worked for me.

6 years ago

3 Comments

  1. These are all great tips and I completely agree that teens get a bad reputation for being known as a professional. That’s why you have to know MORE than your average designer. That just means you have to keep yourself immersed in knowledge. Some examples may include: learn how to design a mobile web site, develop an app, learn how to create logos..etc.

    BTW, this site was shown to me by my design friend and I’m impressed by the quality of your posts. You’re definitely going to see me around more often 🙂

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