by anthony on 08/14/10 at 8:48 pm
Many people will tell you that to get better at anything you need to practice, practice and practice. This is true, but practice isn’t the only way to get better at your craft. If you’re a designer, there are some other practical things you can do to improve your design skills.
1. Create your own “sandbox” projects
You have to be able to experiment and take risks with new and different designs, methods and techniques. At work, you’re expected to perform, as opposed to experiment, so taking design risks and doing something out of the ordinary is usually not encouraged. This is why you need to have your own sandbox to play in to practice, explore and experiment. You could start you own website, blog or just practice redesigning sites you think have bad user experiences.
2. Seek mentorship
Not everyone will be lucky enough to have access to a design guru or master. There are very few in the world anyway. What you should do instead is look to the work and writings of other designers that came before. For example, a big mentor for me has been Paul Rand. His ideas and work have really influenced and inspired me. I never met the guy, but he has helped me understand design at a deeper level. He is no longer alive, but as you can see, his spirit lives on. Your mentor can be anyone, dead or alive.
3. Collaborate with other designers
Collaborating does not necessarily mean to work on other projects with other designers. Most people don’t have time for that. What it means is just basically seeing how other people work – what tools, techniques and methods they use. Seeking tips and advice from another designer can help improve the way you design. There might a better way to do something that you would have never known. I’ve always believed that I could learn from anybody, no matter what their age or profession was. Learning is what life is about. If you’re not learning, you’re not living.
4. Become a better writer
Every great mind has to write. This is because great minds have great ideas, and they need to get those ideas on paper. Writing is an activity that can elucidate your thinking. You not only understand yourself better, but you express yourself in ways you never knew you could. Starting a blog, writing an article or book about what design means to you is a great way to learn about yourself and share your ideas with others.
There are more ways than one to become a better designer. Challenge yourself and find the way that works best for you.