When I first started working as a UI designer, I remember going into the office with enthusiasm every single day. In the night, I would feast on case studies, portfolios and interesting work that designers around the world were creating. Life was a blast.
But as the months go by, I got caught up with work; burdened with technicalities, and sometimes just plain hustling all day, everyday. I barely had time to read and enjoy looking at other people’s work, and the water cooler talk in the office ended up just revolving around crappy clients and tight schedules. On top of that, I was the only graphic designer in the department.
Eventually, I forgot why I do what I do.
Recognizing the problem is the first step to healing and recovery. At the 18th UXSG meet-up, I got the chance to host the topic “Growing as a designer”, hoping to get some ideas on how I could rekindle the passion within me. This short article is the fruit of open and generous sharing by designers who were of a kindred spirit. Some of the tips
Meet and surround yourself with like-minded people
- Attend meet-ups specific to your interest so you get to hear and talk about it. You may also get to meet people whose passion seem to ooze out of every pore; talk to them and take the opportunity to be inspired by them.
- Don’t just get hyped up for a short moment and lose your motivation the very next day; get involved in the community by volunteering, so you’re consistently in touch with these people.
- Keep in touch with ex-colleagues and schoolmates. These are the people whom you’ve spent a considerable amount of time with together, and are likely able to give you more insightful feedback and critique.
Include non-designers in your process
- Learn to put yourself in the shoes of engineers, understand their process and constraints. Even if you don’t know enough to do their job, being a better teammate not only makes your job easier, but it also is part of being a better designer.
- Communicating often with them is a win-win for everyone; when your teammates know that you’re open to feedback, they’re likely to be more forthcoming to share from their perspectives and other things that you may have overlooked.
- Print out digital work. Somehow, it facilities better discussions with your team.
Work on side projects
- Self-initiated projects are naturally born out of interest and a desire to explore or play, both of which are essential ingredients for satisfying your creative hunger.
- You don’t necessarily have to do design work to learn about design; learning a completely unrelated skill can give you unexpected breakthroughs.
See the bigger picture
- Design isn’t just about craft; get involved and care about business strategy and things that are not in your “job scope”, because caring more about things generally makes you a better designer (and person).
Take in loads of information
- Read a lot; there’s just so much to learn on the internet with MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), publishing platforms like Medium, and discussion forums and communities.
- Travel. Experience different cultures and challenge your own stereotypes.
Leave the company
- When you’ve done all these and still feel like you’re languishing, consider leaving for greener pastures. When the environment is no longer conducive for growth, staying in there will suck the life out of you. Our work will eventually suffer. Being our own work’s greatest critics, we risk falling into a vicious cycle: we become disappointed with ourselves, which affects our confidence and attitude, and it just goes downhill from here.
I hope these tips will be helpful for you. Feel free to comment on this post and share your own!