How do I handle an increasing lack of faith in my design abilities?
Do any of you seasoned design professionals have any advice for a young graphic design student/novice?
Especially with respects to improving upon knowledge and picking yourself up post-critique. Particularly if you are a person who takes criticism very personally.
I do understand that as a design student, it can be an advantage to be 'thick skinned'.
What advice would you give in order for me to pick myself up?
I have started to realise (realistically) that I am not particularly very talented at design. Despite dedicating the last 4 years towards educating myself, spending lots of money and learning the industry.
I'll try to sum up what helped me the most when I was going through my last own little crisis.
Sometimes you will feel really good about your work. Other times (for some the most) you will realise your final result is nowhere near your previous expectations. This in my case gets aggravated by Dribbble profiles :)
I have heard lots of professionals saying some people just "don't have it", aesthetically-wise. I don't agree. If practise doesn't make perfect, it can definitely make great. And I don't think it has to do with more studying. If you like designing, don't stop doing it.
My very personal advice:
Observe other people's work. Follow other designers, keep an eye on what the big agencies and brands are doing, pick your favourite pieces. Use your designer eye for things around you, criticize, absorb. Also look at how the design process works for others, how they "come up with the great ideas".
Be honest with your own work, and try harder. This is the key, I think. When you create something, stop, look at it. Give it a couple of days, evaluate it again. Most designers know how good or bad a piece is, and some will settle for good enough. Don't. Push yourself a little more, aim for excellence. Keep trying. Start all over, if you have to. Don't stop until you know you got it, the real thing, the one you are proud of.
Not all jobs need to be executed to perfection, but it's good to have a few of these gold pieces. And it's something you can keep forever. Most writers, for example, start with a rough written sketch and then work their way up, we are talking months, even years making corrections. Only a very tiny group of people can grab a pen and create something unique and amazing.
I always tell this story when talking about "talent": I had two friends. One was superbly talented, but was lazy and had no real passion about what he was best at. The other was terrible, he couldn't draw a stick figure, I'm not exaggerating. Yet he tried and tried, he drew for months, then went to school, and now he's a famous artist while my first friend does something completely unrelated that he's not even good at nor makes him happy. If design is what you want, go for it. You don't need to be Mozart to make music.
EDIT: I see now I kind of missed the point with my answer. Regarding the thick skin... I have a very thin one. I asked this question a little while ago, I think the answers can really give you a nice perspective: