By now, there’s no way you haven’t seen a TikTok. Whether you’ve seen a video cross-posted on Twitter, pitched the platform as a social strategy to a client, or witnessed your Gen Z cousin become a viral star, TikTok is impossible to avoid.
What you probably haven’t done is thought about becoming a TikTok creator yourself. And that’s a shame. Allow us to make a case.
As a designer, you should be on TikTok because of its ubiquity alone. With almost 1.5 billion users, the app has experienced meteoric growth. Its especially popular amongst Gen Z, which constitutes 41 percent of users. TikTok seems to have just the types of content that hold this audience’s attention.
And for creatives, TikTok is an arbiter of some of the most inventive, hilarious, and bizarre minds on the Internet—making it a space ripe for self-expression, or maybe even overnight fame.
We rounded up four ways that you, as a designer, can use TikTok to hone your craft without coming across like a total boomer.
Illustrate your skills
Joining the ranks of other talented designers and artists on the platform is probably the most natural and intuitive way in. You don’t have to change anything about your style or technique, just how you share your work with the world. There are plenty of existing challenges to hop onto, as well as new trends cropping up daily. A quick search through the #drawingchallenge tag yielded some cool trends, like:
Take a design or drawing you’ve already made. Then, recreate it…in its most simple form. It’s a fun exercise in perspective to reduce your own work down to its most basic elements, and it’s fun for others to see the comparison between your crude stick-figure drawing and the finished product.
Or maybe try a tutorial video:
Bite-sized tutorials are a powerful way to build an audience and to show tips and tricks you’ve picked up along your career. We’ll discuss this more later, but showing your process instead of immediate perfection is key to creating content that feels native to TikTok.
Stay true to you
There’s a pretty common thread among most TikTok users—youth. That’s not an accident. TikTok understands Gen Z in a way its competitors like Firework don’t. Its algorithm is designed for users to be sucked into a digital black hole of content tailored to them based on their prior interactions with the site—whether they choose to create or not. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, or even the now-defunct Vine (often referred to as TikTok’s predecessor), TikTok’s homepage is not built around who you follow. Instead, it’s a boundless exploration of virality made just for you—it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself scrolling through the feed for hours upon end.
So, if you feel a bit cringey about the prospect of creating content or even having an account at all, it’s totally understandable. But don’t let the cringe stop you from creating. Just like in any other creative venture in life, your stuff isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Think about what type of content you would like to see on the platform—if it doesn’t already exist, you’ll be raising the bar by creating it.
This self-awareness might actually lead to better vids.
Take The Washington Post’s TikTok, for example. As a 141-year-old publication with hundreds of Pulitzers and some Very Serious Reporting, a foray into TikTok might be confusing—but just wait until you see their stuff. It’s great, and highly self-aware. At the account’s genesis, WaPo’s editors were pretty honest about how befuddled they were by that app.
After a few (entertaining and hilarious) growing pains, they’ve found their stride. Not only has WaPo cracked the code, it’s succeeding in its own way.
Like, political humor:
And, workplace humor, too:
Show a look behind the scenes
Ready…set…unlearn everything you’ve been programmed to think and do on social media! TikTok is not the place for impeccable social media curation. So in order to be good at it, you’ve got to drop the act.
“TikTok is a safer space where you can post videos about you being yourself, rather than worrying about being perfect,” said high schooler Ireland McTague in an interview with the New York Times.
As a creator, this opens up plenty of doors for you. Instead of just showing the finished product like you might on your professional portfolio site or highly-curated Insta feed—let the world know about your process, some screw-ups along the way, failed experiments, or whatever’s true to you.
Amber Vittoria, a NYC-based artist and illustrator, recently joined TikTok after seeing success on other social platforms like Instagram, where she has over 71,000 followers. On Vittoria’s Instagram account, you’ll see polished pieces and brand partnerships. On her TikTok, however, she flips through her sketchbook and draws live for the camera.
“I heard TikTok was a wonderful place to share more unfiltered aspects of yourself. I’m brand new to the platform, but I’ve been sharing videos of myself drawing and love it,” she said.
Check out a couple examples of content that would only really be on TikTok.
Or, uh, a super candid discussion on mental health:
Make use of its editing tools
If, by the end of this, you’re still thinking that TikTok really isn’t for you, allow us to make one final pitch. You don’t have to publish anything to the app, just use it to edit. Unlike most other professional video editing software, this app is specifically designed for short-form, social-first content creation. By editing your social videos in TikTok, you can create stuff that still looks visually appealing, but not over-produced.
The in-app effects panel contains plenty of tools to streamline your video editing process. From trippy face effects to clean transitions, there’s plenty of room to play. Plus, if you’re feeling uninspired or overwhelmed by your options, a quick scroll through the “for you” page will provide an unlimited amount of inspiration from other users.