Best Advice I Received About Making Creative Work

Best advice I received about making good creative work? 

Don’t try to be original. 

Don’t try to be perfect. 

The need to be original and perfect are top reasons why most creative people stop making work for the fun of it. 

Instead, learn how to imitate. 

Not plagiarize (that’s a different conversation), but imitate. 

See what works for other people, and apply it to yourself. 

Rinse and repeat the process.

Think You Need to Have Everything Together By 21? Think Again

No one has it together straight out of school. 

Hear me out when I say, not a single person I know has had “everything together” by 21. 

Don’t sweat it. 

We’re all juggling (though some better than others) our way through each day.

Fortunately, what you can control is what you seek to learn after graduation. You are in charge of your own curriculum. You have control over your creative potential. If you’re lucky, you can meet some really great people along the way. 

That’s one of the reasons why I love Habit Factory so much. 

Through every workshop, every push you do for yourself, you learn something new. 

You don’t need to have everything together. In fact, it’s better that you leave some room for exploration and curiosity. 

The Truth About Good Design

Good design is never good. Instead, it’s always “good”. 

What’s the difference?

When it comes to design work, there will always be critics. Designers critiquing their own work. Designers critiquing another designer’s work. Other people critiquing a designer’s work, and so on. 

Here’s what I mean when I say there are 2 different kinds of good design.

There’s a version of good where the project passes all our personal checkboxes. This is the first and most personal critique, because it’s done by yourself, alone. A survey of 1. Whether you think it’s good or not almost always doesn’t matter (yes, you read that right).

Good design is highly subjective, non-conforming, and untameable. If we really want results, we need to define what good means. This is where “good” comes in.

“Good” is targeted. “Good” depends on who you’re talking to—your audience, your market. “Good” is defined. What does your project/product/service need in order for your market to say it’s “good”? 

You only need to be “good” for a specific group of people. Oftentimes, the designer herself is not a part of that group of people. 

So before you critique your work to it’s death, ask what are you designing, and who does it need to be “good” for? 

Your Logo is Just a JPEG. Stop Worrying About How Your Business Aesthetics look

I’m going against all of what I thought was important in design school to say the following:

It doesn’t matter how clever you make your logo. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of “unique style” you take on with your business name. 

The colour you choose doesn’t matter.

The font you choose doesn’t matter either. 

When you’re a business starting out, your logo is just a JPEG. One out of millions in the marketplace around you. 

But while others might be focused on their own looks, you should be focused on serving somebody else first. 

There Are 2 Types of Feedback You Can Get As A Designer

A. Helpful feedback

B. Non-helpful feedback

If you’re showing your work and someone makes a comment (i.e. it looks weird, can the logo be bigger?) it’s useful to categorize what kind of feedback it might be. 

Helpful feedback gives insight. It helps us see what might be more valuable for whoever we’re trying to serve. Helpful feedback helps us see what we might not have seen. 

Non-helpful feedback is everything else. It’s the cynicism or the blind over-encouraging. It’s the self-centred comments that don’t consider the end user. 

The next step after sorting through your feedback is to take action. Now that you know what’s helpful, show us what you can do with it. 

As a designer, it’s our job to figure out what feedback is helpful and non-helpful. It’s not our job to design for everybody who has an opinion—we only serve a select few at a time. 

Design School Outside of Design School

So you’ve graduated from your 4-5 years of study in an art/design school. Now what? 

I’m writing this thinking that most of you who will read it are from my circle of friends and colleagues (meaning we went to school and graduated together. Thank you for sticking by).  I’m sure there’s a side of you who wishes to improve your design work. I’m certain there’s a part of you that wants to see the creative work you’re capable of. In order for that growth to happen, we need to be students again. 

What are you actively trying to improve? How will you do it? 

What we learned with The Habit Factory is that learning is not restricted to school environments. We don’t need the traditional education model to be the backbone of our career’s success. 

We’re launching a new workshop in the upcoming year. It will be for upcoming UX designers and UX researchers who want to take their craft seriously (there’s no sign up page for it yet, but this is a heads up that it’s coming). If you know of anyone who might be interested in beginning a career within the UX field, they can subscribe to our newsletter (at the bottom of the website) for workshop updates.

More on the workshop to come soon! 

Design School In 7 Sentences

Since it’s been well over a year from leaving school, I thought it would be fun to write a summary of my thoughts around it. 

  1. At first you’re not really going to understand a single thing, and you’re going to complain about it to your friends and future colleagues
  2. You’re going to put a lot of effort (sometimes entire nights) into projects that aren’t for someone else, but for yourself to learn and improve from
  1. When you start to see what other professionals working in the field do, you’re going to want to go waaaaay further than the school brief told you to
  2. Knowing a little bit about the other art and design disciplines go a long way, so go out of your own way to learn about them
  3. Critiques aren’t there to boost your ego. They’re there so you can understand what your work looks and sounds like from the perspective of someone else. This is critical. 
  4. Your peers (future colleagues and acquaintances) are going to be your favourite kind of people
  5. When you leave, you’re going to wish you took more chances on yourself. But hey, you’re 22 and life has just begun.

What I Really Think After 5 Years of Design School

I found my degree in the mail yesterday.

It came in a black folder and was bent down the middle as it was forcefully stuffed into our tiny community mailbox.

Five years of school, and an unexpected final semester later, I get the chance to consider the weight a degree holds in our current world.

A couple of decades ago, a post-secondary degree would have carried a lot more value to families, society, and most importantly the students themselves. Now it’s part of our checklist of growing up.

And now we’re going through another shift in the culture of education.

Knowing what I know now, I would encourage a younger Anna to take this very moment to rethink schooling, because it turns out that education and learning are two different things.

It’s nice to have a good education, but it’s a lot more interesting to discover how you learn best and gravitate towards what you genuinely hold interest in.

It seems like now would be a really good time to do the second option.