Do you want to improve your design skills?
Are you doing enough to renew your skills as a designer? If your answer is no, the following tips should be of interest for you. If your answer is yes, these tips might still get you to think again. It is easy to get caught in the loop of doing the same thing forever.
Photo by karen horton
Look for some inspiration
Feeding yourself with design inspiration is a must for every designer. Following are a few ways to stay up-to-date with what’s happening.
- Design magazines
Want to relax? Find yourself a good design magazine and enjoy. There is always creative stuff to discover, so here is a few magazines that I would suggest: Creative review, Neo2, Computer Arts, Juxtapoz, Print or idpure. You can also give a shot to free online design magazines.
- Design blogs
Like for magazines, design blogs are an excellent resource for inspiration. I will not list too many design blogs here since David Airey already compiled a very useful list of 50 design blogs. Of course you might as well find inspiration in non-design blogs, just be curious.
- Inspiration books
There is tons of books with tons of logos, letterheads, webdesigns or other designs featured. Some good examples would be books like: Los Logos, Musikraphics, The Big Book of Letterheads, The Big Book of Illustration Ideas or The Web Designer’s Idea Book. I would also suggest you to look at some good art books.
Photo by jetalone
Go back to studying
Going back to school is quite hard when you’re on a day job, especially if you’re freelancing. This said, it can be interesting to go back in some evening school to pick up a course on calligraphy, programming or whatever skill you’d like to learn. The internet is also a good resource if your city or town doesn’t have university or schools.
- Evening school
Part time schools usually have a wide range of topics covered, so you should be able to learn something new there. The good thing about those is that you’ll get to listen to an expert and directly ask your questions. If you’re a freelancer, this is also a nice occasion to socialize and meet other people with similar interest. I won’t put any links here as it will depend on your location, but a good search should make it easy to find the available courses in your area.
- Online courses
As you know, the internet is full of free stuff, even college courses. If you are an autodidact at heart, take a look at Standford on iTunes, MIT online courses or at the University of Washington. The Online Books Page is also a great reference, as well as… Google searches…
Photo by karen horton
Read some design books
While reading on the internet is a great way to learn, books have two great advantages: they put all the information in one place and they give you an in-depth view on a specific topic. Books in the following categories should cover your learning needs.
- Graphic design & typography
Apart from the inspiration books, many are very useful to learn more about graphic design theory. Color theory, grid systems or typography history are great topics and will definitly help you to improve your skills. If you don’t know what to read, you can start with those: “Grid Systems in Graphic Design“, “Typographie: A Manual of Design” or “Designing Books: Practice and Theory“.
You think that you already know all your Adobe softwares by heart? Think again, those softwares are huge and you’ll learn something from a good book for sure. You can also try to learn some new softwares like video editing tools or audio editing softwares, learning 3D might be a good idea too.
- HTML, CSS & Webdesign
You’ll be amazed to discover how many HTML tags you didn’t know of, CSS tricks you ignored and so on… Reading CSS: The Definitive Guide really helped me to get a better understanding of the possibilities of designing with CSS, just like Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug.
Learn some new techniques with tutorials
Tutorials are amazing, they allow you to learn skills one by one. The Tuts+ network by Envato should be a good place to get started, they cover pretty much anything design-related: Photoshop, Illustrator, webdesign,… Many Digg-likes are also dedicated to tutorials like PixelGroovy.
Photo by whiteafrican
Attend conferences or watch them online
Successful and creative people talk about the topics they’re experts in, so you better listen to them. Changing your views on design, or simply on the world itself, is a great way not to keep on doing the same things over and over. While attending the conferences is good for networking, it is also very expensive most of the time and often taking place too far. That’s why it’s so good to have the internet and be able to watch those speeches online.
“Ideas worth spreading”, TED’s website tells it like it is. Many great designers have been hosted as speakers at TED, so you should take a look.
Apart from organizing conferences, AIGA also releases videos of the events. Many of those talks are truly inspiring and make you want to move forward.