There’s no shortcut or hidden trick to improving your design skills – ask anyone in design or any other field, creative or otherwise. But there is a simple way. It’s not easy (nothing worth doing usually is), but it is fairly simple. And that is: do one design thing each day that’s outside your comfort zone.
Whether it’s a technique you’ve been learning but haven’t applied yet, or a color or font choice you’re itching to try, or a new arrangement of elements – just implement one of these new things each day. By doing so on a consistent basis, you’ll slowly but steadily grow as a designer and will begin to improve your skills.
And as we have just entered into a new year, now is the perfect time to put to put these tips into practice, could even be a New Year resolution.
Small and Consistent Changes is Key
Big sweeping changes almost never yield growth. It’s too big of a change to sustain.
Just look to New Years resolutions, or trying to go from flab to buff in a short time period, or learning and applying a dramatically different design style or technique right away. The changes are too sudden and drastic for you to be able to keep doing them, so you tend to rightfully give up, like most people.
But if instead you apply small and consistent changes, you’ll be able to grow without too much effort. And with time, you’ll see that drastic change – improved skills, better design style, more productive ideas. Except getting there was much more manageable, since you implemented bite-sized changes that were very do-able on a consistent basis.
Building the Habit
Like brushing your teeth, what you’re doing is forming a habit for design growth. Just how you don’t even think about brushing your teeth each day, the one new design thing you try each day will become habitual to where you’re not even noticing it.
Habits are what’s easiest to keep up and are essential to design growth. If you were a messy person and one day decided to completely clean your apartment, you wouldn’t be able to keep doing that. It’s too big of an effort to do such a massive clean-up each time. But if you tidied one thing each day–take out the trash more frequently, wipe the counter after each use, dust and vacuum sooner–then you’d be able to keep those small tasks up on a consistent basis.
After a while, they become habits, and it’d be weird to not do them. A tidying habit has been formed.
It’s the same for your design work. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can just make some sweeping change by becoming this type of designer or suddenly implementing this technique or something. Instead, form a habit by doing one small design thing each day that’s outside your comfort zone.
It’s pretty easy to try out that new color combination on your next web design, or to experiment with new fonts for that next banner. So just do things like that each day, and after a while it will become a habit – sometimes as soon as a few weeks or a month.
Why Only One Thing?
On your first day of trying new design techniques or styles that are outside your comfort zone, you’ll no doubt feel you can do a lot more. You might think: “Why stop at just one technique? I could try three more today!”
You won’t be able to keep that up each day. And the whole point of constantly growing as a designer is to implement small do-able changes that form into a habit.
So sure, you could do three or more outside-your-comfort-zone design things today, but could you tomorrow? And the day after? And after that? How about weeks, months, and years from now? Probably not. But doing only one thing is very do-able. It won’t require too much effort, and doing a little each day pays off much more than a lot at one time.
Just ask fitness experts – a little bit of exercise each day keeps you much more fit than a massive workout once a week. You’re basically “staying fit” with your design growth by doing a small exercise each day. And the exercise is doing one design thing each day that’s outside your comfort zone.
If you really, really feel confident that you could do 2 for example, then by all means go for it. But if you can’t keep it up, don’t give up: just drop down to only one thing a day.
Constantly Grow as a Designer
Like with anything in life, the way you can most effectively grow as a designer is to do small, consistent changes. By doing one design thing each day that’s outside your comfort zone, you’ll be able to constantly grow as a designer.
Big, sweeping changes aren’t sustainable and will usually cause you to give up. But by sticking to a very do-able one-new-thing-a-day schedule, you’ll be able to form a design growth habit without too much effort. And when you gain that habit, you’ll be well on your way to constantly growing as a designer.
A month, few months, and year from now, you’ll notice that big improvements in your design skills and range. And because you already have a habit of doing that one new outside-your-comfort-zone design thing, you’ll just keep growing as a designer.