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How to Become a Better Designer in 30 Days: The Challenge

By on May 2, 2016 in Inspiration
How to Become a Better Designer in 30 Days: The Challenge

No matter where you’re at in your design career, it always helps to improve. Whether it’s typography, layout, or color theory – a good designer becomes great by constantly practicing and expanding his or her skills. As such, we’ve prepared a guide to becoming a better designer in just 30 days. Think of it as a bootcamp for your talent. But instead of doing pushups or being yelled at, you’ll train your eye and aesthetic sensibilities. Take a look, and let us know how you go in the comments below.

We've also created a handy one-sheet in case you want to print this challenge:

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Day 1 – Take Stock Of Where You Are Now

To start off, make a list of your skills and weaknesses as a designer. What do you enjoy doing? What could you be better at? Take the time to write down your qualities as a designer, and use them going forward to shape the areas you'll focus on.

Day 2 – Turn Your Handwriting Into A Font

Good typography is at the heart of a lot of great design. One way to help understand type and to grow in your appreciation of it as a craft is to create your very own font using your handwriting. A site like My Script Font will allow you to scan in your own letters and convert them to a usable font.

We have shared several articles that can help you complete this goal for day two:

Day 3 – Follow Some Great Designers On Twitter

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Twitter is an excellent platform for learning about all sorts of topics in easy-to-digest, bite-sized chunks of 140 characters each. This is as true for design as it is any other industry. There’s no shortage of inspiring, informative folks out there who are worth a follow. Folks like Jessica Walsh, John Maeda, and Swiss Miss are a great start.

Day 4 – Start A Blog

A blog is a great way to gather inspiration, share your thoughts, or even sell your wares. To start with, create a simple blog using a platform like Wordpress or Squarespace. There are thousands of themes and templates out there that can help you skin your site however you like.

Day 5 – Make A Moodboard

It can be for anything, it doesn’t matter what. Making a moodboard helps you understand what informs your design sensibilities, and to see your design aesthetic at a bird’s eye view. Sites like Niice let you create moodboards with just a simple bit of dragging and dropping.

Day 6 – Rebrand A Local Charity

Working for free is a controversial topic, and we won’t go into the pros and cons here. But we do recommend helping out local charities and smaller non-profit groups by volunteering your design skills. Find an association or brand that you gel with, and see what you can do to overhaul their look and feel. It’s an excellent way to improve your design skills and feel good at the same time.

Day 7 – Carry A Camera Everywhere You Go For A Day

Being a good designer isn’t just about putting pen to paper or opening up Photoshop. It’s about training your eye to be as observant and as curious as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by tuning your vision for good photo opportunities. Having a camera (or smartphone) at hand everywhere you go will ensure you’re always on the lookout.

Day 8 – Collaborate With Another Designer

When you start off in your design career, it’s easy to think that sharing ideas leaves you open to plagiarism. As such, some junior designers are a bit shy about putting their creative thoughts out in the open. The more experienced designer knows that ideas double in value when shared with someone else. This not only increases the likelihood that your projects will come to life, but increases the creative opportunities that come your way. Reach out to someone on LinkedIn or Facebook and offer to go tag team on a project you’ve been thinking about.

Day 9 – Learn About Lateral Thinking

Jumping to unexpected, lateral solutions is at the heart of solid design thinking. And don’t be fooled into believing that this type of thinking is the sole domain of creative geniuses like Picasso or Einstein. Lateral thinking is a teachable skill that can be practiced just like any other. Read a book by the master of lateral thinking, Sir Edward De Bono to get started.

Day 10 – Make Something With Your Hands

It’s easy to stick to the laptop or smartphone when it comes to crafting a design. What’s often forgotten is the beauty of actually crafting something with your hands. Today, try staying off the computer for a bit. Instead, take out those amazing high-fidelity, sensitive skin styluses attached to your hands (otherwise known as fingers) and trying to make something with them. Like a clay pot, an origami crane, or a tie-dyed t-shirt. You might be surprised at how enjoyable making something so tactile can be.

Day 11 – Learn Copywriting

A picture, as the old saying goes, is worth a thousand words. As such, many designers and art directors view copywriting as an archaic skill that’s at polar opposites to their own, visually-led craft. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Good design is about crafting a message. And it’s impossible to divorce the written word from design. A memorable message requires clear, creative thinking. And that requires words and pictures to go hand in hand. Even if you don’t plan on ever becoming a full-time copywriter, it helps to have a handle on basic writing skills, like proper grammar, the economy of words, and clarifying who your audience is. Take a look at this presentation or ask a copywriter friend to go for coffee.

Day 12 – Practice Your Presentation Skills

Even if you’ve crafted the world’s most brilliant design solution, nobody will get to see it if you can’t present it with panache. Today, take a step towards improving your presentation skills. Join a local Toastmasters group, or read a book on Salesmanship.

Day 13 – Take An Online Course

The web has brought all the world’s knowledge to our fingertips. So why are you wasting your time playing Candy Crush on your iPhone? Do something a bit more useful and take an online course from somewhere like Udemy or General Assembly. You could do a design-related course, or something more leftfield.

Day 14 – Swap Your Skills

This one’s similar to day 8. There’s an idea in creativity that the best concepts come when disparate fields cross over into one. To this end, today try reaching out to a talented creative person on the Internet that you admire. They can be in design, or they can be in something completely different like poetry, just as an example. The objective is to find someone with different skills and ask them how you can share your own.

Day 15 – Craft A Personal Mission Statement

Big brands create mission statements in order to set everyone in their company on one common goal. Have you ever thought of doing the same for your own career? A mission statement can help you clarify exactly what your goals are and how close you are to reaching them. It doesn’t have to be filled with buzzwords or corporate-speak. Try researching the bio lines of talented designers that you admire on LinkedIn or Twitter to get started.

Day 16 – Design a Graphic Tee

Threadless is the mecca of online t-shirt sites. It’s full of witty designs executed to perfection. Why not try your hand at creating your own?

Day 17 – Learn 3D

We’re not suggesting you get a job at George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic, but learning the basics of 3D design can only help you in your design career. A free program like Blender in conjunction with the plethora of tutorials available online, can help you understand lighting, shape, composition, depth and perspective and how they all work together.

Day 18 – Visit The Library

The library – remember that? That dusty old collection of books downtown? Well it hasn’t gone anywhere, and even in 2016 it’s full of helpful tomes ready to make you a better designer. And better yet it’s free. The books don’t have to be design-related either. Feel free to pick up an encyclopedia or a novel, and learn about art, history or human nature. It all goes into making you better at your craft.

Day 19 – Perfect The Pen Tool

Illustrator’s pen tool can be a tricky one for many designers, but once you’ve got a handle on it, it can be quite powerful. Do yourself a favor and practice with the pen using the brilliant online tool here.

Day 20 – Upgrade Your Memory

Not the grey matter in your head, the memory in your laptop. No matter what you’re designing, more RAM can help you do it faster. Check with your computer manufacturer to see if an upgrade is available for your current configuration.

Day 21 – Redesign An Album Cover

Here’s a fun task – take one of your favorite albums and see if you can reimagine the cover. The music album cover is one of the purest expressions of design in pop culture. Browse some of history’s classics to get started, pop your favorite single on, and get to work.

Day 22 – Splurge On Design Books On Amazon

When it comes to titles that can improve your design education, sites like Amazon are an embarrassment of riches.
Save up for a few weeks and then splurge it all on 3-5 (or more!) design books that catch your eye. It’s always a pleasant surprise getting a package in the mail, and even better when it contains something that’s good for your career too.

Day 23 – Take A Nap

Seriously, go ahead. Catch some Z’s. We’re trained as designers to dose up on caffeine and will often find ourselves awake at 3am browsing a design blog in order to find inspiration. But all that inspiration’s useless if our creative muscles aren’t rested enough to be put to good use. Studies show that a power sleep of 10-20 minutes is optimal for increasing alertness and boosting short-term energy levels.

Day 24 – Join A Gym

When you’ve woken from your power nap, take a look online to find a good gym deal and sign up as soon as you can. The benefits of regular exercise won’t help you choose the best typeface or know what colors work well together. But more exercise means more oxygen. And more oxygen means you think more clearly and be less stressed when doing all of the above.

Day 25 – Visit A Museum

You don’t have to be in New York or London. Most cities have some sort of gallery or museum that’s free to visit. And they’re always packed with inspiration.

Day 26 – Reconnect With Nature

If your design idea isn’t working after a few hours of sitting at a screen, it makes sense to shut things down and go for a quick walk. Soak up some local scenery, get some mountain air, and get your light from the sun rather than an LED screen for a change. It’ll help, trust us.

Day 27 – Take A Day Off

On a similar note, it never hurts to take a holiday from your own projects. If your wallet or client can afford it, why not give yourself a day at the beach or the driving range? If your client can’t afford you to take a one-day vacation, mix up your daily routine, and try doing something that’s a bit out of the blue. It can be as simple as taking a different route to work or having a chat to someone you’ve never taken the time to get to know before. Good design and creativity become harder to achieve when we stay stagnant.

Day 28 – Write An Article

If you’d like to learn about something, design-wise, why not try writing an article about it? Crafting a long-form piece of writing forces you to clarify your thoughts and articulate them so that someone else can understand it. This will help you absorb as much information as possible about your design topic of interest.

Day 29 – Design your Personal Brand

The ultimate design brief: Your own identity. Designing a type or wordmark for one’s very own self-identity can be one of the most challenging and rewarding creative projects. Such a task forces you to distil your skills and aesthetics into one visual.

Day 30 – Upgrade Your Arsenal

Now you’ve reached day 30 of this design challenge, it’s time to take your design skills to the next level. At Creative Market, we can help you out with a wide assortment of themes, typefaces, pictures and graphics. Whatever your next design task, our assets will help you get the job done.

So there you have it. 30 design challenges for 30 days to help you get to the next level. If you undertake this task, please let us know how you go in the comments below.


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14 Comments

  1. Oh yes, it's very ambitious to take an online course or learn 3D in one day :D
    But nevertheless a few nice suggestions. Some of them I already do regularly.

  2. #29 - Design your personal brand. In a day. 'Ambitious' is probably not the word I would pick for that on. lol - I've only been working on mine for about 15 years now. :D

  3. i believe the overall idea for this is to just do it, right? Like in the personal brand - not something permanent. Just like shopping a catalog when you need a new set of bed sheets, my take on this is that I just need to take an hour and a fresh sketch sheet, and I need to think through and sketch out some new and possible ideas for myself. I might already have a name, logo and brand, but it helps me to think outside the box when I take it back to college and work through some simple exercises. I am going to give this plan a shot and attempt to make it work every day - with all my heart! Thanks for the challenge to jumpstart myself again - I consider it a nice swift kick in the bootie of my business!

  4. Very ambitious projects but some are very doable. Great ideas to get the creative juices running. I'm differently going to try to this challenge.

  5. Loved all 29 challenges. Already working on some of them as part of my aims and objectives. But, 30th wasn't much helpful... Just an ad of CreativeMarket.... :/

  6. Great to have an encouraging boot up the bum. Been a designer for a loooooong time. These challenges will help recharge my batteries. Thanks!

  7. Day 12 really hit me since I've been procrastination about joining a Toastmaster's group to up my public speaking and presentation skills. Overall, this is pretty amazing list that I'll be referring to in the future.

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