With the end of the year quickly approaching, now’s a great time to start reflecting on all of your accomplishments, and the areas you’d like to keep growing in next year—whether it be learning new design skills, landing more projects, or launching your freelance career. To help start you off on the right foot in 2020, we rounded up some of the best advice we heard from designers in our community in 2019.
Throughout the year, we were privileged to hear from an incredible roster of designers who shared their creative insights, inspiration, and small glimpses into their lives and careers. They each had some valuable words of wisdom we thought were worth remembering as we move into 2020. Absorb these tidbits of advice, and get ready to shine even brighter next year.
1. Never stop hunting for your creative voice
“Finding our creative voice takes time, effort, and dedication. It’s easy to glance at someone’s portfolio and think they came out of the gate in perfect form, ready to make top-level work. It’s just not true. What we don’t see are the years that person toiled away, experimenting in form, and evolving their craft—a string of failures to achieve their “10,000 hours” of experience.
The more work we do, the better we get. There is simply no replacement for experience over time… Never stop hunting for your creative voice. Do the goddamn work.”
2. Not everything you make has to be a masterpiece
“Many creatives (and myself included), are deeply influenced by outside forces, which makes it difficult to escape from perfectionism. Striving for perfection is not only a fool’s errand, but it also fuels an unhealthy perspective of your work and causes censorship around process. Reflecting back on this piece of advice has greatly helped me create more, and in turn, create better work by remembering that progress can be ugly at times, and that is absolutely, entirely okay.”
3. Always keep creating new things
“Keep yourself updated. When you don’t advance your knowledge or you get stuck at the same job where projects are no longer challenging, it’s very easy to get stuck and hit creative block.
This happens to me a lot, but I’ve realized that the cure is to always keep creating new things. In my case as an illustrator, I keep trying new styles, perspectives, colors, looking at other illustrators’ work, etc. For that reason, I’m always doing things just for fun, which is the most nutritious food for creativity.”
4. Be a factory, not a warehouse
“My college professor said this and it really stuck with me. It’s a reminder to not be “too precious” about your work and hide it until everything is absolutely perfect (that day will never come). Swallow your pride and put yourself out there and share your work. Keep making things, try new ways of creating, and take risks. It’s better to keep creating and putting yourself out there so you can get honest feedback and move forward.
So, be a factory by continuously creating and putting your work out there. Don’t be a warehouse, storing work in a dark corner that never sees the light of day.”
5. Do not compare
“I got my big break at 28, which is way past most. As difficult as it is, try not to compare your story to someone else’s. Talent is talent and if you work hard, it’s amazing how many good opportunities come your way.”
6. Say no and take personal time
“It’s really easy to get into that routine of saying ‘Yes’ to everything. You take on more than you can handle and you start sacrificing personal time to hit deadlines. Working every hour available has good intentions for the short term but is detrimental to the long term. Communicate where you’re at with people in terms of your schedule and workload. If the project is meant to be, it’ll happen. If not, something will catch you.
Working smart is scary and difficult to do but taking personal time will make you more effective and keeps the creative fire burning. If you are faced with a problem that is taking more than a couple of hours to solve, put down the tools and go indulge in something you enjoy. Come back to the problem and smash it out of the park!”
7. Tell stories and find connections
“This one resonates with me because everything around us is just a depiction of how we look at things. In a way, it’s all about perception and connecting the dots, which is something we need in design every day. My aim is to capture emotions through my work.”
8. Everything is an experiment
“You have a license to try something new. It’s less about the final product and more about the process by which you may discover a different solution or find out something doesn’t work and have to figure out why. I get the sense a lot of people today want dialed-in and specific instructions on how to do something. I want to fumble my way along and be surprised by the outcome.”
9. Be a design chameleon
“This doesn’t mean to position myself as a jack-of-all-trades without a niche, but instead to hone and deepen my skill set to be able to adapt my design style and approach to fit different client needs. As you can probably tell from my work, my bread and butter is a very geometric reductionist style, but this doesn’t necessarily fit every client project. By being flexible and eager to evolve my style, I can open so many more doors to new projects and capabilities.”
10. Do what scares you
“The best things in my life have usually come from taking risks (changing my major in college, making the jump to a new job, taking on projects that I may not feel ready for). I don’t think we’ll ever feel 100% ready to do anything, and we’ll regret not taking the leap more than if we try and fail. My biggest learnings and times of growth have come out of failure, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.”
Bonus: Don’t take advice from anybody
“Don’t take advice from anybody. Just do your own thing. Find your own way because ultimately, that’s what you’re going to do. People give advice based on their life experiences and the journey that they’ve had—and that’s not yours. So it doesn’t always make sense, and you can try to force-fit it, but I think ultimately you have to find your own way.”