Although plain and simple practice is the most direct way to perfect your design skills, strengthen techniques and boost your creativity, there are many other practices that can benefit your work just as much, developing your style or just helping to bypass some of that tricky creative block.
WORKING ON YOUR SKETCH WORK
With digital design so prevalent in the industry it's easy to forget to brush up on your sketch work and practice more binary creative techniques, but the act of sketching helps you refine down the early brainstorming stages of your design process, inspiring new ideas and building your general understanding of composition.
COPYING YOUR IDOLS WORK
There’s a natural skepticism around copying other designers' work. Imitation can feel uninspiring at times but recreating your favourite designer's work can help you get better at understanding the entire design process, allows you to become familiar with the techniques they use, and grow in developing your own style in more detail and providing some much needed new inspiration!
STILL LIFE CLASSES AND FORM-FOCUSED PRACTICES
Still life classes and other similar artistic practices can really help to build a better understanding of form and composition, enabling you to strengthen your understanding of how elements in an image come together to compose a bigger picture. Whether it's still life, sculpting or just dabbling with modelling clay.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
The best way to strengthen your design skills without actually designing is to take the time to learn more about design. Whether it's visiting galleries to take inspiration from others' work, listening to podcasts, reading books or watching videos about the design industry and process. Immersing yourself in the subject of design gives you a wider understanding outside of just creating that will really show in your work. And the best part is, your doing it right now, just by reading this article.
EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT MEDIUMS AND SOFTWARE
Many designers stick to what’s familiar, but taking the time to get to know a different design software or medium, expands your knowledge and technique overall. Trying new mediums forces you to experiment creatively to overcome that beginner's knowledge gap and birth new techniques you can apply to the rest of your work. The best designers are ones with diverse skill sets.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY
Working with a camera encourages you to look at the world from a different perspective through the sight of a viewfinder. Through practice in photography and videography you look at the world in a new way, the act of trying to capture the perfect shots, considering lighting, angle and focus will strengthen your composition skills, which you can then better apply to your design work.
COLLABORATE WITH OTHER DESIGNERS
Take any opportunity you can to collaborate with other designers and creatives. Working with someone with a fresh perspective and opposing style can inspire innovation in your own work. Two heads are better than one!
GET FEEDBACK FROM PEERS AND MENTORS
The most direct way to appraise your work, find your strengths and weaknesses as a designer, locate areas of success and areas you need to improve upon is to just ask! Whether it's a peer, a mentor or just a friend with a creative eye, a pair of fresh eyes can really help to refine your work.
DESIGN OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Take time to experiment with design techniques you're not familiar with and skills you're not confident in. The easiest way to improve in these areas is to just practice in them. You’ll very quickly see improvement in the things that used to intimidate you and feel far more confident in your work and your skills!
REVIEW AND DEVELOP OLDER DESIGNS
Reviewing your old work, with the benefit of more experience and practice really helps motivation. Recreating that work gives you another chance to experiment with new ideas and apply your more recently developed practices and skills to old ideas. This practice will reiterate how far you’ve come, build your confidence and inspire you to keep moving forward!