Some of the biggest difficulties of being a graphic designer are staying up-to-date with the latest trends, deciding which trends are worth following and – *gasp* – creating your own trend. We also have to contend with technology that changes faster than you can say “Adobe CC”. With all of this rapid development, it’s important to stay fresh, creative, and relevant. Here are some suggestions for you:
Print is Not Dead
Books and magazines can be instrumental in the creative process for a designer. Something about being able to physically turn the pages of a beautifully composed book or magazine sparks the imagination. Any time I’m really in a slump, I find it energizing to go to my local book store (and sometimes even Kroger or Walmart), to flip through some colorful design goodness. Magazines dedicated to graphic design specifically also provide helpful information about the latest technology and about industry leaders from around the world.
From freelancers to CEO’s, networking has implications way beyond getting a creative spark. Gathering with other creatives forces you to be on your A-game in conversations and also provides a venue to make a name for yourself and your unique style. I recently attended a networking event with other Adobe users. It was neat to hear about what projects they are currently working on, what problems they’ve faced and how they jumped those hurdles. We also went over some of the newer updates of Adobe CC and how they can improve workflow efficiency. Introverts may have more difficulty feeling inspired after a networking event than your average extrovert, but I still think that meeting with other creative people is one of the best ways to stay on the pulse of the design industry.
Come on. You know that you spend an insane amount of your day hooked up to the web. If you’re not sitting at your computer, then you have more computing power in your pocket than you know what to do with. There’s really no excuse to be out of the loop. I’m not just talking about social media, although that is an awesome way to stay current. Tutorials, case studies and portfolios exist online for you to be inspired (and sometimes jealous). It might require some digging, but there are quite a few tremendous design blogs out there. Subscribe to your favorite blogger and don’t forget to start a dialog! I often find myself reading a great blog post and then moving on to something else. Next time, try commenting about something you learned from the post, something you found interesting or just ask a question. I think you’ll be surprised with how approachable most people tend to be.
As I mentioned, graphic design is a never ending torrent of updates and advancements. Having a degree in graphic design is nice, but that doesn’t make you relevant. Search for supplemental education through your local community college or art institute. I’ve found that smaller art studios sometimes offer classes on traditional art and design principles. These help to boost your awareness of concepts that might aid in your pursuit of the next trend. Personally, I try to take some kind of online course every so often. Lynda.com, schoolism.com and howdesignuniversity.com are some of my favorites. There are also plenty of “how-to” videos on YouTube to keep you busy for a while.
Staying creative sometimes means that you need to purge yourself of some bad ideas. One of my university professors told me that sometimes he would sketch something hundreds of times before he settled on which one to use. Even if your favorite idea is the third one that you had, I think it’s a good process to have gone through all those iterations. Not only does it help you work on improving your skills, it also ensures that you have a higher end, original product. Practicing your craft allows you to emulate the current trends, experiment with old trends and even come up with your own adaptations. The only way you’ll ever be a trend-setter is to have your own style. If you never practice designing from your personal inspiration, you can’t expect to have a style of your own either.
How do you stay up on the latest trends? Has your style ever become trend-worthy? I’d love to hear your feedback!