While in design school, it was easy to surround myself with inspiration and engage in activities that helped my understanding of effective design. Once I graduated I feared losing it, since I was no longer surrounded by a learning environment. I made it a point to continue educating myself as much as possible and become more active in the field of design. I was determined not to let my designs grow stagnant, but rather transgress and improve with time. Here are a few tips, exercises and practices that have help me continue learning, strengthen creativity and become an all around better designer.
Become a collector
Each time you see a design that inspires you, collect it, bring it home and file it away. I have hundreds of brochures, posters and other collateral that I have collected over the years that is stacked away in folders and boxes that I can quickly access – great source of inspiration when needed. Even Starbucks gives out creative weekly mini-newspapers.
Having an extensive book collection is always essential to learning. I try buying a new book at least every 2 weeks that range from inspirational, educational and technical topics.
Read design-related blogs
I can’t stress enough how much information I have learned by reading other great designers blogs. The web in an invaluable resource of information – take advantage of it and actually use it!
Start a design blog
Having started this blog only a couple months ago, I have found it to be extremely useful and educational for myself. It has made me more aware of the design community and more analytical of my own work.
Join and be active in the design community
As a freelance designer, joining the online design community is a must. Not only does it keep you up-to-date in the design world, but is also great for feedback and critique. Being your own boss is great, but not having anyone to answer to as a freelancer also has it’s down sides. No one to criticize your work and help you improve.
Take lots of photos
Solves the problem of not being able to take home designs you like – Camera phones are great for this kind of thing. Just snap a photo and file it away for later. I use Evernote for this type of thing; pictures of building designs, textures, shapes of shadows on walls. Basically anything that interests me from a design stand point.
Create fake projects
Whenever I find myself with free time (which is getting less and less lately) I create fake projects. Create a fake brand for a company. Design a logo, stationary, brochure, website – the whole nine yards. It’s good to do this once in awhile because it keeps design fun and let’s your creativity run wild without limitations. It’s often easy to get caught in a rut when clients start dictating and your work no longer becomes “yours”.
Redo other people’s design
Don’t want to create a fake brand to design? Try redesigning other people’s projects. This help’s you evaluate what “they” did wrong and what you could do better.
Redo your old designs
I know what it feels like to look at your early days of design and think “Oh my! What was I thinking?! I need to get rid of that immediately”, but is important to keep that work. It will help you see if you’re moving forward and improving your skills. Instead of throwing away or deleting old projects, try reworking them.
Every few months I make it a point to attend lectures of other designers speaking at local schools and universities. Always learn a new thing or two.
Network with other designers
Attending lectures is a great way to meet other designers. I always try to search out the designers that have more experience and talent than I do. I know – it’s hard to admit someone else is better than you, but networking with people of higher skill levels will push you to work harder and learn more.
Many local college allow you to register for classes without enrolling full-time. It will not only teach you some new things technically, but also put you back in a classroom of your peers.
Interview other designers and studios
A year ago, a friend of mine, started a ‘national studio tour‘ where he toured and interviewed with over 100 different design studios. He said the experience was amazing and learned so much by asking questions that design school could have never answered. He also met a valuable useful contacts 😉
Every time I travel to another country, I come back feeling extremely inspired. I usually find myself designing all day for a few weeks straight. Experiencing new cultures and seeing their artwork, opens your mind to a whole new world. Just wish I could travel more!
Learn something new
Whenever I am in a creative slump I try something new or do something completely unrelated to design. Getting your mind off things and into something new, usually has a funny way of working itself back around.
Grab a sketchbook
Sketch Your Design Ideas-
If you’re a creative person, there are probably many ideas running through your head every day. Do you have these moments? It can happen on your vacation when you aren’t even thinking about work, or it happens before you go to sleep, or even in the shower. read more
Best Sites to Improve Your Design
- Learn something new. Getting your mind off things and into something new, usually has a funny way of working itself back around.
- What are some of the ways you stay creative or improve yourself? Share your thoughts on the methods in the discussion page or add them to this article.
- Do online tutorials. This will help you learn new techniques and you can combine your knowledge with those techniques for future projects.
- Talk to other graphic designers on the internet and share thoughts, tips, and ideas!
[ Good Design ] ~
1. is a good investment.
This originally started as “Good Design is Good Business” courtesy of Mr. Watson. However in today’s commercial environment, I belief most people understand this concept. Unfortunately not many actually see it as an investment that has tangible returns. Therefore most Return on Investment (ROI) calculations can be applied here. This means there has to be risk assessments, planning, budget controls, and long term goals set out. Design should never be just about making something look good and flogging it for extra cash.
2. is all encompassing.
Good design is all encompassing and unifying. It should not just be about the product or look. It should include every single aspect that revolves around a product, including things like user interface, packaging and branding etc.
3. does not exist in vacuum.
Nothing comes from nothing. I find the best designs works best for the context it was developed in. Good understanding of user needs, a critical insight on a problem, and a well-defined brief is important for producing the good design.
4. satisfies all requirements.
A design solution cannot be successful if it does not satisfy all the requirements of the user, business and development constraints. This is more about prioritizing rather than about compromise. Pick your fights, learn to negotiate, and make sure you win the war not the battle.
5. is beautiful.
I don’t think too much needs to be said here, except our visual sense is one of the strongest of our 5 senses. There is no justification for ugly and over styled products. In other words you cannot polish crap. So it is better to be self-critical always, rather than face the consequences when the market tells you otherwise.
6. is innovative, logical and clever.
Good design does not stop at being beautiful. Good design goes beyond aesthetics, as it also needs to be an innovative and clever solution that evokes an emotional response from the user. Good design just makes sense.
7. is intuitive and uncomplicated.
This is my latest addition. Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Making a product simple to use, intuitive and uncomplicated is probably one of the hardest things for a designer to do. It requires passion and dedication at every stage of the products’ development cycle.
8. is strategic.
This last one, I think is the most important. Design can and should be applied in all aspects of an organization. My favorite thought is that, Design should be a vital function in any organization, just like finance, accounting or logistics etc. This way Design is involved at the highest level of decision-making, and part of why an organization exists.