When it comes to design the old adage “nobody’s perfect” comes to mind. The perfect designer is simply a myth and an ideological station that most people including graphic and web designer aspire to become. While you may not be able to attain absolute perfection you can fortunately continue in your career by enhancing your skills.
In other words, you can better yourself as a designer. Just as when you try to personally change yourself the path to progressing yourself as designer takes time, dedication and or course a couple of steps. Although not every method will work for everyone there are a few basic necessities and actions that will allow you as a designer to take your skillset to the next level.
Do Your Research
As you are probably aware conducting research no matter which fields you are interested in is an extremely important and practical method. You wouldn’t go into an important meeting with potential high paying clients without knowing anything about their company would you? Of course you wouldn’t so there is no reason why you should jump into a field or project you know nothing about and expect to succeed.
This is not to say that you must know everything and anything in design but it does mean you need to canvas the area so to speak. Research can be split up depending on your current experience and knowledge within the design world. It also depends on the project that you are working on. Design tools are a perfect category that one should do a little digging around on. Not every software works for every designer. Some often feel that just because the Adobe Creative Suites are so popular and highly-recommended that they are tied down to that particular software package and consequently never try anything else. Instead of following this type of thinking start doing your investigation and use your own opinion to develop a conclusion. Most websites offer free trials so try downloading a few and then compare them so that you can make a final decision. The same goes for other design tools such as tablets and monitors. While you won’t be able to get a 30-day trial with these devices you can more than likely test the products out at your nearest electronic store or wherever you may have access to do so.
Since design trends change annually you will want to try to keep up-to-date on what’s popular. This is an easy task as there are always a multitude of showcases available on the internet; you simply need to seek them out. Remember that your research is based around what you don’t know, want to now and need to know. If there is some term or technique you don’t understand then research it. If you have been curious on how to do something try to find some tutorials on it and look at the work of others’ to see how they’re implementing these things. Finally if you have a particular design subject you have never truly expanded upon then research on that particular topic.
Explore and Experiment
Frank Borman said “exploration is really the essence of the human spirit”. Humans are curious by nature and though you have probably been warned off at times as a child about being too curious it is necessary in design. Exploring allows you to experiment and when you experiment you begin to learn what you are good at, what you’re not so good at and what you are terrible at. Essentially it allows you to find out your strengths and weaknesses and afterwards you can then work on those problem areas.
Areas like subject, color, technique, typography and so on are good areas to explore and implement in your work. The time for exploring is the time for you to be creative without being held back by constraints of clients or your own personal fears that you may not succeed. Before you just start randomly exploring outside of your “comfort zone” you should explore yourself. In other words you need to examine your own work. This will allow you to see your advancement over the years and hopefully it might inspire you to want to continue your line of work and get better at it. You need to be able to be critical of your work so that you can easily identify your strong and weak points. Ask yourself “what would you go back and do differently” and hold on to that. Knowing such things can possibly help you figure out if you want to change your style.
Challenge yourself by taking those works you aren’t so proud of and try reworking them. You might be surprised by the results. As already mentioned, you should look at the work of other designers. Don’t just look at your favorite artist who inspires you either because then you are limiting your exploration. Who knows, you might find yourself inspired by looking over a piece of work that you usually wouldn’t regard. Explore different color palettes and not just those default ones either. Try making your own color palettes by throwing random colors together or use your images to generate a few. You can then work these into your projects very easily. Experiment along these lines of mixing design elements together and creating unusual compositions. The key is to not be afraid and to essentially throw caution to the wind so that you can truly find your creative self.
Create a Project
While you are busy experimenting with different things you should take the time out to create your own personal project. These personal projects are the gateways to allowing you to try new things out as there are no constraints or requirements that you as a designer have to abide by. Of course if you want to make the project challenging you can surely create requirements by deciding your color palette, the number of elements allowed, the amount of time you have to finish, etc.
One great thing about creating these fake projects is that it allows you to expand on your design portfolio which is always a good thing. Showing potential clients that you can create without being given a guideline is a great way to impress them as well as show them your diverse creative talents. Not only does this help your portfolio but it truly helps you as a designer because whether you believe it or not these little projects are helping you grow. If you are unsure about what type of projects you should create then you should start small and then build on that. Try coming up with a fake company. You don’t need to complete a mission statement or write the companies origin and history, simply just know what they do and what their name is. From here you can easily start creating branding material. This includes logos, brochures, business cards, letterheads, etc. There isn’t really a need to create every form of branding material but creating a few items is a great warm-up.
If you are looking for something more advanced then that’s when you need to turn to inspiration. Think of a film, piece of music or artwork that inspires you and try to create something based around it, exactly what is essentially your call to make. Should you find yourself inspired by a technique that you’ve seen somewhere then you should take the chance to design a project based around learning and using that very technique. You might find yourself liking the final result so much that you might incorporate it in actual projects that you create for clients. If for some reason you don’t feel inspired or feel like creating branding material you can always redesign one of your favorite designs by another designer. Of course people have their qualms about copying but as long as you are copying for educational purposes and not to later pass the work off as your own conception you should be fine.
Get off the Computer
Perhaps a strange method but sometimes you need to pull yourself away from the computer. While the computer allows you access to things you might not have access to depending on your location, constant use can lead to burnout. Whenever burn out occurs the inability to stay original and creative subsequently follows.
While you are off the computer you can surely regroup whether due to exhaustion or designer’s block. One of the most useful methods one should incorporate in their design itinerary is to actually do something outside of design and that doesn’t involve you on the internet whether it be on your mobile, tablet or laptop. Surely you have other interests and hobbies and now is the time to partake in them. Consider actions like this a mini vacation.
Often times we find inspiration in the most unlikely of places and because of this you should consider always having a sketchbook on your person to record these inspirations down. The beauty of a sketchbook is that you do not have the limitations that graphic software may put on you. There is also the fact that traditional drawing can help keep your skills fresh because you are operating on a different medium. You can make these sketches as big or as small as you want. The beautiful thing about this is that you aren’t tied to your graphics tablet. You can draw on the back of receipts, on napkins and even your hand.
While you are away from the computer you should take this time to also talk to your fellow designers. Being able to physically talk to a person allows you to gauge the sincerity of their words while receiving feedback. You also can explain your motivations and designs more easily. Your fellow designers and non-designers can give you a fresh perspective on those tricky projects and often times they can provide solutions that you yourself didn’t even think of. Essentially during the time off the computer you want to spend your time recharging your mind and body. While it is alright to ponder over your design work don’t let it consume you. Actually take some real “you time” because you will find out that once you have and return back to those unfinished projects you feel rejuvenated and more inspired than before.
In your quest to better yourself as a designer there will be the obligatory bumps in the road but use those as stepping stones rather than deterrents. By taking the above tips and utilizing them you may be surprised to learn more about yourself as a designer as well as enhance your skills. Remember that these are but some tips and only you can truly take yourself to the next level if that’s truly your goal in your occupation as a designer. Best of luck with your future design projects and happy designing.