Improving your skills and getting better at what you do doesn't necessarily have to come from doing formal studies or just practice and practice and practice. Recently, I noticed some unexpected ways that my design skills were starting to improve.
So in this post I want to share three unexpected things that have improved my design skills. Some of these might surprise you because they don't seem like the most typical thing is that would help you improve your skills.
1. Creating Templates in a New Software
The first unexpected way I upleved my design skills was by created templates on Canva. Now I've been an Adobe user for 20 years. And for a very long time, I was really resistant to using Canva. Canva to me, felt very limiting and I would try it out and get really frustrated at it because it couldn't do certain things I wanted to do. But as I got to know my audience, I realised that a lot of them were using Canva.
If I wanted to create templates and things like that, that they could use and also teach them about design, then I really needed to learn Canva and understand how to use. That way I could better help people that were using Canva so they could create quality design. And so I started creating templates on Canva.
I started experimenting, playing around, trying out different things. I found that it started to improve my design skills because I was working within limitations. With things like Adobe anything's possible, when anything's possible, then you've got no constraints you have to work within. When you have to work within constraints in anything creative, it pushes you to be more creative because you've got to think how you can make it work within those constraints.
So trying to create these templates within the limitations of Canva, really push my design skills and creativity.
I've really had to think, 'How can I make this work with what's actually available with the elements that's available here and with the tools that's available'. 'How can I make good quality design?' The other thing that really pushed me, it was trying to think about how I could create the best designs that are going to cover other people's needs.
I'm not just creating a design, that's just for one particular purpose for just one brand. Instead I have to create something that's a lot more flexible. It has to be able to be adaptable for different people's needs for different brands that the people can adapt it to their own branding so that people can put their own content in there and make it their own, but also is really well designed and is strategic.
So trying to think about design in that different way, really pushed my design skills because I had to think about design in this way of how can I create something that's really good quality, really strategic, but also adaptable rather than how can I just create this end design for this end need.
2. Educating Others About Design
The next thing that really helped push my own design skills was educating others on design. Now, some people would be hesitant to do this because they think, well, I'm giving people all my secrets and then that's going to take away from my own work.
However I had to take a pause from client work for a while because I was concentrating on my kids. So for a few years I focused my business solely on just teaching design. By spending time just dedicating to teaching and really immersing myself in how I could articulate the way I designed and the process of design, I really dove deep into the world of branding and graphic design.
It helped my own design skills because I was learning things as well, along the way. I was starting to really analyze why I do certain things and how certain things work. I was revisiting design theory and really digging deep. I was doing further research and learning from others. Reading books and watching educational videos.
I was just really expanding my own knowledge on design as well as really digging deep on why I was doing things. And by doing that, it started to really improve my own design skills because I was analyzing and learning a lot more about design. I really think it's important that with any skill that you have, not just to rely on just learning something once and then just get better at it by practice, but continually learning.
Whether it's doing research or whether it's teaching others and really analyzing why you do certain things. If there's certain areas of your work where you're not sure why you do certain things? But doing the research, starting to listen to other people, looking at new things that come out, if people will put out a new book about the topic, you know, things like that, reading.
Start expanding your knowledge, learning or listening to a variety of different voices on the topic and really digging deep so that you understand how something works better and better all the time, because there's always more to know. There's always more to know, especially with something like branding and graphic design, because it's technology-based and anything that's technology-based, there's always going to be more to learn because the technology keeps changing.
There are always new tools coming out and software is always improving and changing. People will put out new books and more information on the topics and have new insights on things.
It all helped improve my own skills because I was just expanding my knowledge, learning more and more, and really diving into the topic. It also got me thinking a lot more deeply about why I did certain things. I looked back, reflecting on past client work, why certain things worked and why certain ideas were really great ideas, really analyzing the thinking behind some of those things.
3. Having More Design Industry Competition
You may be thinking, 'How can having more competition improve your own skills?' Well, for starters, it raises the bar by having more people in your industry, then you have more people raising the bar, people pushing you harder. The more people entering the industry, the more it's going to raise the bar push thing is high.
Your skills are going to improve more and more. When I first started out, I felt like I had this really unique niche in working for small creative businesses because so many people I knew were just working for corporate big businesses and things like that. The online business world was sort of still in its baby stages. It wasn't as huge as it is today. So I felt like I had a bit of a niche, but the problem is I didn't feel like I had as many peers to encourage me to learn from and to share resources with. I sort of felt like I was going at it alone a little bit. There certainly wasn't all these online courses like there are today and things like that.
So while there were a few other peers and I got to know a few other people, there just wasn't the same kind of level of support as it is today. And so to me, competition, isn't really competition. They are peers. These people are going to help encourage you. You can share resources, you can create community, you can learn from one another and your own skills are going to improve more and more because you're going to be able to share all these different resources.
You can learn from others by watching their processes and workflows. You're going to improve more and more because the reality is there is actually plenty of work to go around because the fact that the design industry is growing means that also all other kinds of small businesses are growing, so there are more small businesses needing design.
It's more about finding your people, finding the people that are going to resonate with you and that you connect to, and that you can help people are going to be drawn to your own style, your own personality. So it's not so much about, there's all these other people doing what I do. It's just about creating your own unique style, having our personality, being yourself. Building your own brand and attracting the people that are going to be drawn to that, which of course is why branding is so important because really having a strong brand is what's going to attract the right kind of people to you. And you're not going to be worried about having all this other competition out there.
Instead you're going to see your competition as peers, people that you can really have a community with. You can all grow together.
There's so many ways that you can grow and learn and improve. And it can often come from unexpected places. So be open to new things, share and be part of your industries community, because that is how you will thrive.
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