Every now and then I get students or people starting out asking my for tips, advice or interviews about my design processes. One of the pieces of advice I give people is to just start doing work, and put it out there.
Don’t wait for that perfect moment when it is ‘good enough’ or you are ready. Take people along for the journey, they can watch as you grow and develop. And by putting it out there and making yourself accountable, you keep at it and keep pushing yourself to get better and better. You will also gain valauble feedback, that you wouldn’t get if you hid it away.
When you first approach a project, and stare at the blank page, it can be hard to make that first step. It almost feels like you have to do something amazing or just right first go. But I find the only way to truly create something amazing and perfect is to first make some bloopers. You don’t have to be a design super star, where everything you ever jot on paper is incredible. Often the best work comes from first making lots of mistakes.
And if you are thinking… ‘But I don’t want my clients to see all my silly ideas’ Well you don’t have to show them. Don’t feel you need to show people every little thing you did, you can make your mistakes and then as you get into the flow and start producing better ideas, you can put together all the better ones to show.
Brilliance Doesn’t Happen On the First Try
I find you often just have to get the bad stuff out of your system to reach something better. It’s a process, you have to begin at the bottom and work up because as you go along you will tweak and improve upon earlier ideas.
I’ve had clients say ‘Wow how do you come up with such amazing ideas right away’... well they didn’t see all the mess I started out with!!
Also on a side note, never show a client something you don’t want them to choose because they might just pick the one you hate! Always show the ideas you’d be proud to say you designed. Of course this doesn’t mean don’t show only the ones you like, as different people have different tastes, but only show the ones you’d be proud to call your work.
Sometimes clients can also help develop the design to something better, by making suggestions based on your concepts, like ‘let’s put the top bit of idea A with the bottom of idea B and use the colour from C’. It’s all a process, you can never produce the perfect thing straight off the bat. It may occasionally happen, but it’s rare!
Have Terrible Ideas. Take Action and Listen.
It’s really about letting go of the fear of failure, to set your self free to experiment and try things that may not necessarily work. Because maybe the mistake will inspire something better, but if you never first tried it, you will never reach that better idea. If you don’t set your ideas free, you will only ever go with the ‘safe’ option, and the ‘safe’ option will never push things and bring you to an exciting result.
Mistakes, poor quality work, terrible ideas… are all a starting point. Even after years of experience you still need to keep making mistakes.
Clarity and confidence come from action and listening. Keep working, keep experimenting and as you go listen.
- Listen to market trends. What is working right now, what are people responding well too, what is changing and how can you adapt.
- Listen to experts. Look at those ahead of you or those who specialise in areas you need help in. Don’t spend all your time consuming content. But keep an eye on these people, stay aware and notice things they say that can help you improve as you go i.e don’t wait until you are ready, tweak as you go.
- Listen to your audience. What are they responding well too, what are they asking for? What are they struggling with? What do they need and are they struggling to find?
- Listen to your analytics. Watch your numbers, analyse what is working and what isn’t.
- Listen to your body and intuition. Know when something doesn’t feel right or isn’t sitting well with you. Notice when you feel stretch, challenged and growing vs when you feel pulled down or put in a position that doesn’t align with you.
Don’t simply consume and THEN create. Listen AS you create. That way as you go along you can pivot, adjust and improve as you go. And if you realise you are down the wrong path you can stop.
Without action and allowing yourself to make mistakes you will never find out. Don’t wait until you feel ‘ready’ or prepared to do it perfectly because it’s simply impossible.
To do good work or even get close to perfection you first need real practice, and to make mistakes that propel you toward better work.
Even a single piece of work is not created perfectly straight away, it requires messy sketches, scribbles, test runs, failed attempts, bad execution and poor ideas before finally, you create that final piece.
Get Messy and Experiment.
You need to experiment. Try new things, try new styles. Learn new techniques and possibilities. Play with crazy wild and silly ideas.
So go get messy, make mistakes and take action, and listen as you go. Don’t be afraid to mess up, experiment, try new things and fall flat. You will never find the gold, if you don’t first dig in the dirt.
Want to Improve Your Design Skills?
No more spending hours agonising over a graphic. Start designing confidently.
Before learning graphic design, I would pour over magazines and copy layouts.
Design felt like a mystery.
How did they come up with these layouts? How do they make it look so good?
It looks simple and easy but I can’t pull off work like that.
While I experimented a lot, I wanted to know the secrets to design.
Once you understand the principles, rules and process of design, it all falls into place easily.
You can create designs that look good quickly, and can more easily spot why something feels off about a design.
You can design with intention and have greater confidence in what you are doing.
Being able to design for yourself, doesn’t require a fancy design degree or expensive software
or even someone telling you you are good enough or creative enough.
You simply need to know what you want to communicate,
and the rules of design to help you put it together in a simple cohesive way.
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