We, Geeks Podcast Ep. 11 – Ten Steps to Becoming a Better Designer

We, Geeks Podcast Episode 11 - Ten Steps to Becoming a Better Designer

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1. Become more interesting and more creative, duh.

How do you become more interesting? Some of the things that I’ve seen and heard helping out (and indeed tried myself–not sure how well they worked, but I’m still working fine) are read more, travel more, spend time with more interesting and driven people (greatness rubs off), ensure that you’re looking at the world in a solid, grounded way that gives you purpose in life and doesn’t leave things hanging in your mind, if all else fails, change your perspective on life! A fresh start, a new town, a new life are all ways to mix it up and build experiences that will last a lifetime and give you a solid base from which you can draw experience and inspiration. How to become more creative.

2. Learn how to manage time. Do your work.

Managing something as beloved as sleep is a start, but breaking down your days to create a flexible schedule that has you working at your most productive hours is extraordinarily important. When you set real goals that involve real work being done (none of that checking email for the sake of checking email nonsense and checking off “make work” from your to-do list) you feel better and you become more productive. It’s a vicious cycle. Jump in now. Set real goals and write lists each day. Be consistent. Hustle.

3. Pick what you want to do. Limit your self and focus in.

You can’t be the brain surgeon and the accounting specialist and you probably can’t even be the Web design and SEO expert while also being a lead cinematographer. The more you pair down what you want to do and focus on it, the more successful you’ll be and the happier you’ll be. This may even leave time for you to pursue other adventures on the weekends.

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours per week.” -Lori Greiner

4. Improve your design aesthetic.

Almost all of us are terrible designers when we begin and we even have stretches of terrible-ness as we build out design careers. This goes for writers, photographers, videographers, illustrators, and more. While some creative folks have “the eye” and have that special mind which will do amazing things, many of us need to discover what looks good and what looks bad. I am convinced that the most effective way to do this is to find relevant, high end inspiration that pertains to current design trends. However, don’t stop there. Examine what makes those designers tick, read what they write, figure out what inspired and inspires them. Find greatness and emulate it. Don’t steal their work, steal their workflow and their work ethic.

“Good designers copy; great designers steal.” -Pablo Picasso

5. Keep an idea book or spark file.

We’ve heard of the old “keep a notebook with you at all times” design cliche. This is kind of that. I know that I usually have my iPhone with me all the time so I created what some refer to as a “spark file” while I keep in my Google Drive and whenever an idea, no matter how big or small, hits me, I jot it down and I can explore it later on when I am sitting down and ready to work. Think about it. Good ideas are worth hanging on to. “How I Learned to Defrag My Brain”

6. Invest in yourself!

Investing both time and money in yourself rather than looking to buy that new “thing” thinking that it will push you over the top. Knowledge lasts much longer than the latest tech. Training, tutorials, and time spent practicing are all much more valuable than the most incredible resources available to you. Spend time and spend money to improve you! Smashing Magazine, treehouse, Lynda.com, and KelbyOne are places I would start with checking out for valuable information. Also check out all of my tutorials and articles too!

7. Step out of your comfort zone!

If you want to be great, you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes stepping away from what you learned at school, doing that crazy project that you think is impossible, or taking on that really difficult job you’ve been avoiding is exactly what you need to push your skills to the next level. Take risks personally and professionally, it’ll make you more interesting and more successful too. Casey Neistat says that the greatest risk is to take no risk at all.

8. Write contracts!

Talking about contracts and money can be uncomfortable, but if you want to continue being a designer, you need your clients to pay you and you want to keep those clients. Almost all disputes with clients happen because one, or both parties misunderstand something or maybe had assumed that they were paying for/you were doing something that wasn’t done. An explicit, clear, detailed contract will keep disputes from occurring in most cases. Be clear, be fair, negotiate the contract to ensure you and the client get what you want, and don’t be afraid to include terms that you want. The contract ought to be fair for BOTH client and designer. See the Creative Mornings talk: F*ck you, pay me.

9. Clean up your work space!

Enhancing and customizing your work space not only makes it look crazy cool, but often it can be that spark that propels you to new levels of success. Just take a look at some of the greatest designers and design firms out there, they usually have amazing spaces to work within. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it sure is cool. Check out some inspiring stuff here.

10. Don’t be the complaining, crying designer!

Stop complaining, it doesn’t help. Stop posting complaints on facebook, go fix the problem, write a better contract, transform your personality to learn to better speak to and respond to clients, be more cheerful, be more helpful, procrastinate less. There is so much that we can work on ourselves before taking to friends or any public forum to complain about our clients. After all, if you love you clients it’ll show in your work and your service toward them and they will begin to love you back in return for that. Complaining makes you sound like a whiner. As my teenage sister would say “Just… no”

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