After a long stint away from the blog, I’m back…
I realize most of you are aware of just how busy I’ve been, I promise I haven’t been hiding. Secretly I’ve been conjuring up this list to share with you all. Regardless of whether you’re currently in school or if you’re already in the industry working as a designer, this list is certain to hold the key to help you become a better designer.
1. Step away from the computer
“To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer.” ~ unknown
These days it’s far to easy to get sucked into the habit of relying heavily on technology, even more so because a career as a designer is stereotypically considered to be a computer driven career. So I urge you to step away from your computer..far far away. Being a great designer isn’t just learning how to “photoshop” something so it looks super cool or figuring out the latest software to create that next best design. Designing starts with ideas that aren’t necessarily fueled by technology. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the computer can act as a barrier between you and that next great creative idea. Often times some of the most unique work is what is created by hand without the aid of technology. Obviously you’ll eventually have to return to using the computer, however, consider finding time to be creative away from the computer and it may just help you create some pretty inspiring work.
2. Get inspired by children
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ~ unknown
Sure, you might be an aspiring designer who considers yourself to be quite creative – but it’s easy to forget just how creative we all were as children. I was reminded of that this past year as I had the opportunity to visit my daughter’s kindergarten class a few times. Along the way I took a few photos and put them all together into a book that helped really capture the life of kindergarteners. I’m amazed how kids have so much energy and help inspire us to think differently. Children live life with out the stress that we often deal with on a daily basis. They have a way of living life without fears or limitations so that they can focus more on the experience and having fun. If you find a way to surround yourself by children you may just find that they might be that spark that helps you think differently and find that next great idea.
3. Put yourself behind a camera
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” ~ Ansel Adams
Though you might not be the next Ansel Adams, you might find that having photography experience might just compliment your skill sets as a designer. These days it’s becoming much more affordable to purchase a digital slr camera which is a great investment for any designer. With photography experience you’ll become a more valuable asset to any client or employer, knowing they could put your photography skills to practice rather than contracting out a separate photographer or purchasing pricey stock photography. If you’re new to photography you might want to consider participating in a project 365 challenge where you take a photo a day to help you learn more about photography. In doing so you may also learn to see things in life far more differently.
4. Never stop learning
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Regardless of your goals as a designer or in life, you must never lose the desire to learn. No matter how much you might think you know, take time to learn something new every day. For most of you that are still in school, it’s easy to hope to just finish a degree to land that next great job. However, I must warn you that it’s not about earning a degree or getting a job – it’s about learning. Learning shouldn’t end once you earn a degree.
5. Read & stay connected
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~ Joseph Addison
Don’t just settle for designing 40 hours a week. With learning comes reading and staying connected. Reading can open your mind to help conceptualize stronger work. Whether you’re reading an inspirational book, a design publication, a new book, or an article online – you’re guaranteed that in the process you are not only learning but you’re staying connected. Just as important enlightening yourself to new ideas is staying tuned into how rapidly our industry is changing. Nowadays the web has RSS feeds that enable you to stay connected to various design publications, news resources, and blogs that will keep you well informed. I’ve shared many sites which offer RSS which I subscribe to which you might be interested in checking out. And though you all are welcome to follow me in twitter, you will find that an increasing number of designers and organizations are starting to use twitter to share resources and stay connected.
“Writing is thinking on paper.” ~ William Zinsser
Sure you may have went to school to become a designer, not an English major, but designers who are capable of writing have an upper hand on those that don’t. If you don’t consider yourself to be much of a writer, you’re encouraged take time to learn to write. It takes a skilled person to perform their profession but one who is able to influence others through writing could lead you to become a far more effective designer. Besides, designing isn’t just about what is seen visually – it’s about communicating.
7. Get away
“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” ~Mary Kay Ash
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how hard you try to achieve our goals – there must come a time that you step away and take a break. (Yes, I know it’s hard to believe.) So whether it’s a short break to gather your thoughts or taking yourself out of the normal day to day routine – it’s important to get away. Sticking to the same exact routine every day may quickly create a stale environment where you might feel far less inspired. Knowing when to step away is one of the most crucial things you can do as a designer.
“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” ~Tom Brokaw
You may do a lot along the way to become a skilled designer. If there’s one thing I’d like to encourage – it’s that even once you think you’ve done as much as you could – do more. In fact, find something you’re passionate about and volunteer your time. Whether you volunteer your time with a design related organization or a non-profit organization, volunteering can be one of the most rewarding things you do. For me it’s not how much I do or accomplish in life – it’s knowing I’ve made a difference. Volunteering is a great way to share your abilities to help others.
9. Share your knowledge
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” ~John Cotton Dana
Once you’re skilled as a designer it’s certainly easy to get in a mindset where you may know more than enough to perform your job. Sharing the knowledge you’ve gained can not only help others learn new skills but it might just help you learn quite a bit too. Take time to consider teaching, mentoring or tutoring others. In fact, most teachers will admit that they learn as much from their students as they’re students learn in class. There’s something about the experience of sharing your knowledge with others that not only helps you learn more, but it helps enhance what you already do know. Even more than that, it helps you realize what you never knew.
10. Don’t be afraid to fail
“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” ~Dr. Edward Land
No one says you need to go bungee jumping or jump out of a perfectly fine airplane to be a better designer, however, taking risks certainly could help you take the leap to being that much more successful. As with everything in life, it’s easy to become complacent and design what is typical. Don’t just take time to design outside of the box, design so far outside the box that there is no box left to worry about. Don’t fear failure, embrace it. Remove the constraints and live a little, and realize that in the experience, regardless of if you fail, that the experience is far more important. Through failure we learn how to succeed.
One more thing…
You all should know that it’s taken me quite a while to dig up the time and energy to put these ideas into writing and so I post these ideas with much enthusiasm, knowing it’s been a while since you all have heard from me via the blog. Sorry, this time around there are no tips on how to use photoshop, illustrator, dreamweaver, flash, etc. – because being a designer is about much more than following a tutorial or learning to use software. Hopefully you all will find, like I have, that these 10 things will do far more for you than just helping you improve as a designer.
Now it’s your turn…share your tips on what might make us all become a better designer!