How to 'fake it until you make it' in design

‘Fake it until you make it’ utilises the psychological effects of false social proof. Used correctly it can propel the success of a both your work and your career as a designer.

False social proof helps you craft both your online and offline brand, so that it elevates the positive perception of a brand to a potential customer or observer.
When Instagram deleted spam accounts in 20141 it proved that brands large and small manipulated how they looked by buying their social influence.
How can designers use the same psychology to make their own work better and get more opportunities?

How to successfully use fake social proof in your work

Clients hire a designer based on the current work in their portfolio. Whether you are starting out or changing your focus, it can prove difficult to get the type of work you want. By creating personal projects you can not only increase the range of work in your portfolio, but you can use fake social proof for the better.

The best personal projects give you the space to play and push your current skills

Personal projects have pushed designers' careers into the stratosphere. From Jessica Hirche's famous Drop Cap series to Leta Sobierajski's colourful array of photography and multimedia design projects. Each sets the tone and character of their style and eventual design commissions.

The best personal projects give you the space to play and push your current skills. They solve an existing problem or propose something new. A great example is the apple store redesign by Amber Creative, they even went as far as to complete the design and code the website. See the live version.
Apple store redesign by Amber Creative Amber Creative's studio project to redesign the Apple store went viral and received a lot of acclaim.

Where do I start?

Being sat in front of a blank piece of paper can be daunting, but there are many helpful sites out there to give you a starting point. You could redesign an existing product, pitch a rebrand for your favourite store or do some pro bono for a local charity. Each new project you add to your body of work will increase your perceived value and experience as a designer.
Here are a few of the best resources to get you started:

Design brief ideas from Digital ArtsAn example of a personal project idea from Digital Arts

How it can go wrong

A word of warning, the positive psychological effects can be short-lived. Make it clear that a project is personal or unofficial work, and avoid the temptation to buy social followers. When you are found out it can negatively affect your credibility and weaken everything you were trying to achieve. Many celebrities discovered this when Instagram removed spam accounts in 2014, causing many people's followers to drop by huge percentages overnight. It instantly reduce your brand value and cause your real followers to distrust you.

Fifa have over 60% fake followers. 60% of Fifa's twitter followers are fake.


Like this?
This article is a part of the Designer's psychology toolkit - the psychology of selling and marketing.

Read the others in the series:

Aspirational promises

Fleeting Attraction

Foot in the door


Form for thought - A blog about by Dura design psychology and design thinking for graphic designers, web designers, ui designers, ux and illustrators. Looking into the psychology of colour, user behaviour and advertising psychology.