As I have often stated before on this blog, anything can be a source of inspiration for design. Even things that you normally wouldn’t think to look at for inspiration can really help out. I love looking for design inspiration in fashion, style, and beauty. The colors can be inspirational. The designs and patterns used are inspirational. Here are some examples.
Design school isn’t for everybody, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn everything on your own. It might be a little harder, and you’re going to have to be the kind of person who knows how to self-motivate, but it;s definitely doable. There is an endless amount of information to be found in books and websites that can teach you all the fundamentals and help you learn all the tools you’ll need. Today I want to focus on the resources available through the internet, both free and paid.
Lynda costs money, but for the price, and what you get, it’s well worth it. Lynda offers videos on everything dealing with design and more. This is the number one place you should look at if you want in depth lessons on how to use a particular piece of software. The videos will walk you through and you’ll be an expert in no time.
Like Lynda, Skillshare offers video tutorials on lots of topics including design. The spin for this site is all the classes are taught by regular people who are experts at what they do. There are tons of incredibly people sharing their knowledge, and you can learn from each and every one of them. Skillshare allows you to purchase a monthly subscription to access lessons, or you can purchase courses individually.
Tuts + offers plenty of practical tutorials to help you get started practicing different projects and gaining skills by actually DOING. They also offer a premium service with even more tutorials and videos to help you out. However, if paying is not in your budget right now, there is an endless amount of free tutorials for photoshop, illustrator and more all offered for free.
Gomediazine is an amazing blog that often features useful tutorials and advice on graphic design. They also feature downloadables, inspiration, news, and more. This site is a great resource for learning. I’d probably turn to scrolling through blogs after having the fundamentals down. If you don’t know where to start, you could end up with information overload.
Yeah, Youtube is great for hilarious videos of cats and movie trailers, but there are lots of learning channels as well. Think of a thing that you want to learn and do a search for it. You’ll be surprised by how many helpful videos come up that can help you through tricky tasks you were stumped on.
Every one learning a skill wants to improve as fast as they possibly can, but that’s not always a possibility. Improving takes a lot of patience, and you won’t always notice when it happens. For me, there are times where I don’t feel as though my design work has gotten any better at all. Then I’ll look back on something I created months ago and realize, “hey! I’m a lot better now!” or, “what the heck was I thinking when I did that?” Improving every day is tough work. To improve, I:
Practice every day
I try to do some form of design work every day, even when I am not in the mood for it. Every little moment of practice counts, even if it’s only 20 minutes that day and then 5 hours the next. You won’t be able to get good at your craft if you never do it. The more you work on something, the better you’re going to be at it.
I read everything that I can on design. Not just books but blogs as well. Find resources that inspire you and teach you new things that you can apply to your work. You aren’t pushing your work if you don’t try new things that you learn all the time.
There are tons of people who are anti copying but that’s just ridiculous. You can learn a lot of new techniques and how things are done by breaking down a piece that you admire and recreating it yourself. The key here is that you should be doing this for personal benefit. Don’t start showing off a poster you duplicated from someone else as your own. Learn from it and then move on.
If you’re burnt out from working yourself too hard, you’re going to see a slump in your work. You may not be doing your best because you’re so tired. Allow yourself to rest every so often and don’t feel guilty about it. When you get back to working, you’re going to feel refreshed and overcome with a new surge of creativity. I’ve sometimes found that if I take a small break from working on something, when I come back to it, I have fresh eyes and I can make the piece even better.
Never expect perfection
I never expect everything I make to be the next masterpiece at the Guggenheim. It’s important not to have crazy expectations when you are looking to improve. There will always be others better than you, and there will never be a moment where you feel like you’ve reached the best you can ever be. You’ll be improving for the rest of your life, so don’t always look for an end point, enjoy the journey.
I like to give myself goals every couple of weeks as a way to motivate myself and keep focus on important things. There’s a lot of stuff that I have to do, and some goals I like to give myself to make sure I’m not just slaving away at design work all the time.
1. Finish big project. I have a pretty massive final project for one of my classes that I really do need to begin working on. I’ve been putting it off for a while now, and honestly, I probably should have started it weeks ago. Unfortunately, I tend to do this a lot, and it’s a habit that I’m going to have to break if I’m going to be doing design work regularly. Which leads me to…
2. Work on my first freelance project. Yes! I got my first job doing design work for a client. It’s not the biggest project ever, but it’s a start. I’m so excited and the project is a whole lot of fun. I’m not allowed to talk about it yet, but I can’t wait to show the work I’ve done so far once I get the OK from the client.
3. Read a book on typography. I was recently gifted this cool book and I’d really like to begin working through the exercises inside of it. Type and lettering are some of my favorite aspects of design, so I’m definitely stoked about owning this. Thanks, of course, to my brilliant friend Adam for getting this for me.
4. Pay more attention to my nails. I’m not exactly crazy about beauty and makeup, but I love painting my nails. I had some fun at a friend’s house trying out her gel nail lamp and decided I’d really like to get one for myself. I just need to get all the supplies to do the manicures at home. I’m pretty excited about it. I think my love of nail art may be an extension of my love for design.
5. RELAX. It’s been a hectic month for me. I’ve been bouncing all over the place finishing up course work as the semester comes to a close, along with a whole bunch of other crazy life things. Once I finish my last big project, I really need to allow myself to have a breather and rest without worrying about everything I need to be doing instead. I always feel guilty about taking time off, but I know I need me time to make sure I don’t burn out completely.
I’m sure every designer has had a moment where they’ve sat in front of a computer or piece of paper and had absolutely no idea what to do. Moments like these can make you feel worthless, or like you’re not good enough. But there are tons of ways to get yourself motivated, and get your brain full of ideas. Here are some of the things I do when I just don’t know where to start.
Look at the work of other great designers
One of the things that never fails to get me inspired is looking at other peoples work. If I’m not in the mood to do anything, 15 minutes of scrolling through the portfolio of someone with incredible talent is enough to make me want to create something myself. There are tons of sites you can look at from behance, to pinterest, to flickr.
Always collect inspiration
I’m an inspiration hoarder. Whenever I see something that is visually pleasing, I save it to my computer. I’ve accumulated so many inspiring images that I have everything sorted by subject, artist, color and more. Keeping a collection of what you like, whatever that may be, will really help you out in a time when you feel creatively helpless.
I do this both visually and verbally. If I’m stumped with a blank piece of paper I may start scribbling, doodling, and creating shapes until something clicks in my head. I also like to brainstorm with words to give me a starting part for an idea. Start with one word and keep expanding with other related words until an idea, or several come to you.
Get Away from the Computer
Sometimes stepping away from your work all together and going outside can be a really great way to get over creative block. Go for a walk and take in your surroundings. You may be surprised at how inspiring just living in the world can be.
Sometimes you have to push through moments of no inspiration. You can’t let it be an excuse. If you don’t know what you should do for a particular piece, just begin working and see what comes from it. You might find that by just diving in, something comes to you and it wasn’t as hard as you were expecting it to be. Or you may not like what you create, but making something terrible is the first step to doing something good, so it’s never time wasted.