Admit it, don’t you just feel all fuzzy inside when another designer tells you you’ve got excellent work? (It’s different when you hear it from a client, you go “Hey, thanks!” but what do they know, right?) Or when you or your work gets featured on a portfolio site and it gets other designers talking, that would make your day.
I’m sure there is at least one designer whose work you admire and wish to emulate. (My list actually includes web and graphic designers, illustrators and digital artists because I still have this crazy notion that I can be expert at all these professions one day, ha!) This great designer is to you, the bar to measure yourself against.
The Best Way
So how do you get from so-so to awesome? Deliberate and constant practice, of course. It’s how to get better at anything. I learned this rule from my piano lessons. It’s how I got better at baking, cake decorating, speed reading and anything else I put my mind to. And it’s how I’m getting better at design. (You don’t want to look at my first logos!)
Here’s what I found works for me. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried them too and your results.
1. How to practice your conceptual ability
Good design is a solution. You’re given a problem, you figure out how best to solve it and you can explain why and how it works.
If you’re training as a graphic or web designer, take another designer’s case study. Study his/her design process and final solution, then do your own brainstorming. How would you approach the project? What would you do differently?
If you were hired to redesign a famous brand like Coca-Cola or Nike, how would you go about it? Do mindmaps, word associations, sketches.
If you were a character designer back in the 1930s, how would Walt Disney’s Snow White look like to you?
You get the idea.
2. How to train your design aesthetic
Aesthetics is the visual appeal of the solution. This is where art comes in, where beauty is introduced over the concept. A meaningful design coupled with aesthetics has greater impact than one that works but is downright ugly.
Take a logo you admire and copy it, I mean sketch it out with pencil and paper.Then do it in vector. Don’t just trace it, do it from scratch.
Find a website you think is awesome and recreate it. Every element—line, gradient, color.
Head over to DeviantArt and look for beautiful digital art and recreate an effect.
Now don’t go posting your copied design and claiming it yours. This exercise is only meant to train you so you can move on to create something just as awesome.
“Practice makes perfect” may be cliché but it’s still true. What do you think?