How to Become a Cool Designer in 365 Days
Translation of the article “How To Become An Awesome Designer In 365 Days” by Marko Stupić from Habr-user billie.
One of the ancient sayings that motivates me is “Practice leads to perfection”. Proverbs are commonplace, but in certain situations they hit the mark. I am a workaholic by nature, which, of course, has both positive and negative sides.
One of the positives is that I can’t give myself a break and do nothing all day. On the other hand, working without rest or clear goals reduces motivation and is undoubtedly tiring. That’s why I decided to trust the good old adage and try to get better.
Becoming a great designer is a big challenge. Becoming famous and recognized is even more difficult. There are so many narrow specialties in the field of digital design with many categories of designers who, each in their own field, make a name for themselves. Some are great web designers, others are great UI designers if they focus on animation, and so on. How do you find yourself among a huge number of successful people, and, more worriedly, how to succeed in such a competitive environment?
The answer to this question is: work, work and work again. Of course, talent helps. But it is perseverance and hard work that separates a good designer from a great one.
What I want to share is my story about how I started my journey, about personal and professional growth.
This illustration is my first step into Dribbble.
The obvious advantage of working for a creative and renowned digital agency is that your environment forces you to improve at every step. Your peers are experts in their field, and the last thing you want to do is fall behind. The competitive environment acts as an extremely positive incentive.
I wanted to be one of these amazing people. I knew that I needed to develop my creativity and promote myself as a designer.
The first thing that came to mind was training. When I go to the gym, I often see athletes exercising daily to develop agility, strength and coordination. It’s the same with musicians.
They repeat their compositions until they begin to perform them from memory. By practicing in various activities, we learn new things, new movements. Our brain creates new synoptic connections, and we begin to see the problem in a new light, in other words – we develop our creativity.
Practice doesn’t lead to perfection. Perfect practice alone leads to perfection.
Come up with a test
Being motivated to take action is just as critical if you want to grow and develop. I need such a test to have to surpass myself. I also need to be clear about the end goal. When you develop an application, you know perfectly well what to expect from the final product.
A lot of subtle points will have to be tweaked and brushed during the project, but your goal should be clear. In my case, this means that I need to come up with a design project that will require me to surpass myself.
First published illustration.
This is how the icon-a-day.com project appeared.
The original idea was to create a simple icon every day for a year using Adobe Illustrator as the main tool. The concept is simple: a circle in which I write the icon. The themes of the illustrations are completely different. I must admit that at the beginning I was not sure if this would lead to anything. But the main goal was to improve my digital graphics skills.
I wanted to make dissimilar illustrations in order to master several styles. I learned about my possibilities (and continue to learn about them).
Since the beginning of the project, he practically lives his own life. Icon making has become my second self, almost like brushing my teeth every morning.
Although the original idea was simple icons, over time these have evolved into full-blown illustrations.
Get to know your possibilities
Naturally, working on such a project in private time entails a number of problems. The biggest challenge for me is finding the time. As you work from 9 to 5, you realize that time is not really infinite. Your day can be overwhelmed by personal or work responsibilities. It is very difficult to invest everything you have in a project alone.
One of the pitfalls of a long-term project is the loss of motivation and the inevitable loss of quality. The key is to always stay focused on the main goal and post the icon at the end of the day no matter what.
Staying resilient throughout a project is a challenge in itself. I started with simple icons, but as I evolved, I learned new techniques for applying shadows, filters, effects, etc.
These examples show the progress I have made from the beginning to the present:
You must remain committed to your work. Finding motivation to take action from day to day can be difficult. I realized that self-promotion helps to cope with this task. Posting your work to social media like Tumblr, Twitter, Behance, or Dribbble gives you a wide audience. Third party recognition imposes an obligation on you to continue the project.
I started my blog on Tumblr where I posted icons on a daily basis. I was able to easily observe my progress during those 365 days, and it is also a good way to show the work to other people. Aside from Tumblr, the illustrations that I think I’ve done well end up on Dribbble, which is a more designer-focused community.
When you publish your work on the web, you have a certain audience of subscribers, and, as a rule, your popularity as a designer grows.
If I missed one day, I would find a slip to skip another, and so on. Be true to your cause and it will pay off.
Get the support of your friends
If you are starting a long-term project, there is a risk that friends will be skeptical about it. Don’t fall into this trap. Friends play a big role in your development. You need to surround yourself with people who will encourage your work. People who will see meaning in your project and advise you when you face a creative crisis, and trust me, there will be days when that crisis happens.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at your business. There are times when you are faced with obstacles that you cannot overcome. This is when the involvement of friends and colleagues is important. They can show / suggest a new solution, give the right advice.
Although my project takes time, I have not lost friends over it. Quite the opposite, I brought in a few new ones over the course of the project, especially in the design environment.
Realize the result
It may seem that you will not get more from your project than personal growth. You will be surprised what result you can get by starting to do something. Aside from unleashing the creativity that may have been sleeping all this time, there are many other things that can happen along the way to your personal goal.
As for me, I got stronger in illustration, I learned how to animate my icons (it was a small side project that colleagues helped me with), I met many new creative people and opened the doors to the design community. The project took on a commercial side: people loved the illustrations and wanted to get the right to use or hire me to do custom illustrations.
I also started selling my icons on Society6, where you can find them on various household items such as mugs, watches, bedspreads.
All the consequences of this work have led to an increase in self-confidence. The end result of the project covers the minor negative points that can happen along the way.
The end of a long journey
If someone had told me a year ago that I would be creating one illustration a day, I probably would not have believed it. I didn’t realize how much progress I could achieve in such a short time frame.
Colleagues from work ask me: what will you do when you finish your 365th icon?
Fair? I dont know. I will probably find a different goal for myself, a new challenge that will make me better, already in a new field of digital design.
What I can say for sure is that the icon-a-day project has been a great achievement of mine and I recommend everyone to start their own project. Life is a lifelong learning process, and goals like these help us push our boundaries. This gives us growth, both professional and personal.