A most beautiful Oriole came to visit my yard this afternoon. It's brilliant orange and black markings were just exceptional as it sat on the branches of my apple tree and I thought to myself 'Wow, nature is really the best designer. There doesn't seem to be anything which she can improve upon.' Being, however, that I am not Mother Nature I began to reflect on things that I could do to improve my own design work. Here is my list:
- Learn a new application. I'm often so busy with client work or admin work that I feel after a 10-12 hour day I just can't conceive of learning something new. This is, of course, a HUGE excuse. It is important to keep abreast of new updates and software applications that come out or even applications that you haven't been able to add to your skill set as yet. Things I'm looking into are Adobe CS3, and Quickbooks. I know that in spending the time learning these upgrades or in the case of Quickbooks a whole new application, I'll be making my life easier and my portfolio more valuable. Well worth it, don't you think?
- Learn something new besides applications. The last few months found me so busy with work that I was beginning to feel that I was becoming progressively more stupid. I love to learn but being so consumed with work and home life responsibilities left little time to even think about learning anything. Things have since quieted down here at Chez Mikulski and once again I find myself enjoying the Discovery Channel and learning about a new (for me) area of design... Interior Design. Check out Apartment Therapy NYC and Charles and Hudson.
- Reading. In addition to gaining knowledge about our industry I really believe it is a designer's responsibility to be well read and knowledgeable about our world. I have a pile of magazines sitting next to my bed and next to my desk. Well...it's time to whittle down that pile. As a designer I subscribe to Communication Arts, How, and Print. As a human being I read Time, The New Yorker, Ink, Vogue and Vanity Fair. As a writer, I'm reading now not just to gather facts and content but to read the words of novelists and journalists. Word weaving is an art. Favorite blogs for art, writing and design include...Edward Winkleman, Design Observer, Thinkvitamin, and the free articles at Publication Coach. Also check out The Art Guide for art exhibitions, openings and reviews. (I must say The Art Guide gets better every month.) It's also pretty amazing how much news you can pick up when your browser homepage is set to a news website such as MSNBC or CNN ...yeah I've got a little crush on Anderson Cooper.
- Yes, you can just look at the pictures. I read somewhere that the average person spends approximately 11 seconds looking at a work of art in a museum or gallery. Breezing through art museums and design books is not really LOOKING. Like the title of this blog, I need to really slow down again and start looking at art and design...drink in the details of a brush stroke, examine the spacing between letters in a great ad and wonder about such things as the chosen color palette or font. LOOK at the packaging in the stores, check the design of exceptional websites and hey...actually visit the main pages of blogs. Some lovely design out there that isn't shown in a feed reader and 11 seconds just will not do.
- Get out of the office. You can't design for real life if you're not experiencing real life. My car was broken down for a long time and the walls of my house seemed to nearly crush me. Not only did I really miss the freedom my vehicle provides me but I missed interaction with other people, art openings, social events, networking opportunities...oh my! Broken car or not, working on your own can be an isolating experience. Get out and be with the 3 dimensional people. Travel is always an mind expanding activity.
- Exercise. Yup...no kidding, I really think it makes you a better designer. Because of the broken down car situation, and also because of my pledge on Going Green I started to ride my bike around town. Doing this then encouraged the practice of riding to the beach and out just for the heck of it. I used to ride my bike quite a bit 4 years ago but gave it up to devote myself to working 16 hours a day. Heart pounding exercise really clears your head, improves a nasty mood (if you should find yourself in such a mood), and makes you more productive. Added incentive...I've lost 8 pounds and feel heaps better!
What do you do in an effort to be a better designer?