Sometimes it's easy to forget we need to do professional development on a regular basis. Even though I've been doing this for over 25 years, and I still need to train and develop my skill set and my thinking. Even writing this blog forces me to improve my processes and thinking. (Now I'm in the throes of redesigning my website to be more responsive and easier to manage.) There are several ways to improve as a designer. But here are a few basic ideas that are not new, but great places to start:
1. Get more trainingTraining doesn't have to be about graphic design. You can also enhance your marketability as a designer by training in web coding, application development, photography, or copy writing. Be creative. There are subjects that seem totally unrelated to design, like psychology, sociology, or philosophy, but can build some intuitive skills that make you a better designer.
- Try online training or courses such as can be found in Lynda.com, General Assembly, or the free Codecademy.
- Take a look at your local community college for training and courses you can take.
- Go back to school to get certified or earn a degree.
- Look for learning conferences such as How Live Conference or an Adobe seminar.
2. Read good booksBooks are a great way to experience new ways of thinking. And like above, don't limit yourself to design titles.
- Consider books about copy writing such as the excellent book The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert W. Bly. I found this to be pretty helpful manual.
- Read a book about getting paid or properly setting up for self-employment. For example, The Graphic Designer's Guide to Pricing, Estimating, and Budgeting by Theo Stephen Williams is a good book to start with. And one I haven't read all of yet, but looks good, is The Designer's Guide To Marketing And Pricing: How To Win Clients And What To Charge by Ilise Benun and Peleg Top.
- Learn a new skill like photography and working in Photoshop. Scott Kelby has a lot of great resources for this as well as books. And Corey Barker has good books and resources on Photoshop.
3. Volunteer your servicesBeing a volunteer, especially when using your God-given talents, not only helps you grow, but it can tremendously helps a good cause.
- Volunteer for an organization you respect. For me I love volunteering my services at church. I am sometimes forced to wear many hats. But it brings great understanding to what I do, and understanding of how a client might think. It also forces me to be a better communicator, since I have to deal with a lot of people who don't understand design or marketing. Another cause I'm passionate about is literacy and education.
- Consider a cause you are passionate about, and offer your services to them. Think about web design, product design, promotional design, collateral, ebook design, and on and on. Even offer yourself as a consultant. Remember, not everything has to be pro-bono. Some items can be done at-cost if you want. Whatever you are comfortable with.
- Think about family and friends. But do so with great caution. It can get messy. But if use a contract, and remain business-like, you can develop some good work and get experience dealing with personalities that may not value you as highly as a stranger. Just sayin'.