Eight guiding principles
Here are eight principles I've come to find true for me. I hold to them when things get confusing and check my work and life against them. Some are about actual design work but some are simply about life, because being a good designer begins at such a deeper level than pushing pixels in photoshop. Being a good designer means being a good human.
Life balance is key to good design
Designers are people and people need balance in order to thrive. Balance in life will lead to a state of flow which provides a deep sense of happiness. Happy designers make happy products :)
Creativity is successfully working with change
People change, goals change, companies change, and products change. That is okay. Experienced designers embrace change as fuel for creativity and innovation. Amateur designers complain.
Jump first and fear later
There is nothing quite like ignorance combined with a driving need to succeed to force rapid learning. Saying yes will provide opportunities for growth that "no" cannot provide. Good designers embrace inexperience as opportunity.
The process is messy and that's okay
Setting out to create something isn't a science, it's a leap of a faith. While having a process is good, hold to it loosely and embrace the chaos. Fail. There is no reward without the struggle.
Good design is putting content over chrome
Design should be unobtrusive. It's role is to enhance and elevate the experience rather than distract. Good design goes unnoticed while amateur design distracts the user from achieving their goal.
If you smell it, you change it
Good designers don't merely point out problems, they fix them. If you smell the poopy diaper then you change it. (I have a baby, okay???) It's never someone else's problem or responsibility.
The result is only a reflection of the process
How you get to a solution is important. In the end, the amount of time and energy put into discovery, research, and exploration will be reflected in the final product.
Designers work with humans not computers
Good designers learn how to communicate. They understand that presentation, discussion, justification, kindness, and collaboration are just as important in design as pushing pixels.