Design for Marketers: The skills you need to "make it" in 2018

This is the second article in a series. In the first article I explained how I collected the knowledge necessary to cross the gap between “designer” to “marketer” in order to advance my career.

This week, I’m going to talk about the simple creative skills a junior marketer could teach him or herself in order to further their career within a marketing department.

Disclaimer: these skills won’t make you a designer, but they will help when it comes time for you to either work with a designer, when you’re conceptualizing on a campaign or deliverables, or when you need to roll up your sleeves and do actual creative work in order to meet a deadline.

Being a designer is a lot about self-actualization. The required skillset for a creative ebbs and flows as technology is developed and trends come and go.

Learn at least two of the following tools: Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Sketch

Almost every deliverable a designer will ever create will be using one of these programs or a combination thereof. I personally use a combination of InDesign and Sketch the most in my daily work. With InDesign, I create all printed materials or multipage documents. With Sketch, I create all digital materials from social media campaigns to wireframing websites or other UX projects. has training formatted as learning paths around all of these applications. For a very low monthly cost, you could learn enough to open an existing document and make changes to the content or put together your own version.

Become familiar with HTML

Whether you’re using a CMS like HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo or you’re just in charge of sending marketing emails, you’re probably going to encounter an instance of HTML at least once a week. You don’t need to learn how to code an entire page from scratch, but it is useful to be able to go into the code and directly tweak a landing page or email template beyond what the CMS allows you to modify. offers a four week course that teaches the basics of HTML with no prior experience needed. It is a self-paced, private environment with lots of resources to help you learn or go back and repeat a course if you need to.

Know the basics of UI/UX

You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t even have to take a class. However, I would suggest you at least pick up a title like 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People or Don’t Make Me Think which I consider to be the cornerstone of all UI/UX thinking in the current design environment. Both of these books have simple language, and offer a common sense approach to web and mobile usability.

Understand the principles of visual branding

Pick up Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman or listen to her Podcast Design Matters with conversations about creative culture and lots of contemporary visual thinking, mostly for information and to be updated with the latest and greatest.

Know where to find the best templates

Left to your own devices and don’t know where to start? Head on over to or and simply spend some money to get a template to help you head in the right direction. From power point presentations, to brochures, proposals, entire websites, stock video or build your own product shot kits, everything you might possibly need is right at your fingertips.

Your secret weapon: A good contact

Meet and create relationships with 2 or 3 professional graphic designers, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone an outsource a project here and there. Knowing the right referral in a time of need is almost as effective as knowing how to do it yourself.

Becoming a marketer who understands the building blocks of design is a great way to grow within a marketing department and attract the right kind of attention from management. Good luck!