I have chubby thumbs, and I’m writing this on an iPhone. It’d be cool to have a ribbon if I make it through this with minimal typos. I’ll probably sound entitled, but I recently listened to this NPR show about how participation awards are real and necessary, just sayin’.
My field of study is graphic design, and it’s my hope and dream to be able to parlay limitless creativity and inspiration into a sustainable job that hopefully does some real good in the world and helps people out. But in order to “play” you need to first learn how to efficiently work in order to get to where you’re going, or at least that’s what my dad says. For many creatives, this can translate to spinning the production wheel at the office while working on your personal projects in your free time. It’s important to keep adding work to your portfolio that excites you, that you’re proud of. So if you’ve been stuck in the trenches at work and haven’t had any time to make that collage series of 90’s Sex and the City outfits you’ve been dreaming about for months, here are a few tips to keep your production level at the office and creative wish-list both satisfied.
1. Make a schedule. Make time to experiment with creative projects in your down time just like you’d make time to go to the grocery store. If you’re an after-hours kind of person and end up working late often, set aside 1 or 2 days a week to focus on other projects in those extra hours between 5 and 8pm. It’s hard to keep motivated when you’re working on a difficult or tedious project in and outside of the office, but that’s why making a schedule really helps. Know your limits to putting in unproductive work hours, and be sure to set aside time for personal creativity.
2. Talk about your ideas! Personally, it’s always been pretty rare for me to be inspired by an art show or scrolling through other designers’ blogs. That feels more like research and staying familiar with the great work out there. Conversations are what I find to be truly inspiring. Talking to someone, figuring out their brain space, learning from them and listening to their ideas — that’s where the meat is. Plus, if you talk about your ideas to people, you may be more likely to move forward with them to avoid looking like a chump who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Another life lesson from Dad.
3. Make up clients and their needs. Yeah totally, just make it up out of thin air! But if you decide it’s good enough to include on your website or portfolio, be sure to note that it isn’t published work. This exercise is a sweet way to marry your interests together into one project and add variety to your work. For example, say you’re interested in food and the outdoors. Additionally, you’re a designer who wishes they had more branding experience. You could make up a fine dining restaurant located in Aspen that needs a completely integrated visual branding experience for a luxury client. BOOM, with just that idea, you could tackle anything from menu designs to logotypes to interior design and signage. Take your pick or do it all! And the best part is, you can set your own deadlines with zero client restrictions. I’m still working on a packaging label for my Katy Perry themed white wine spritzer. It’s called Teenage Dream (obviously).
4. Step away from the computer. It’s very important. We all get really good at clicking, but you don’t want your eyes to melt and your brain to turn to mush. So take time to try new things outside of the computer screen so you don’t lose your sanity. Pick up a paintbrush or build a coffee table or start your own garden. Whatever it is, if you’re using your hands and legs and not just the tips of your fingers, maybe you won’t lose your mind completely and throw your laptop across the room the next time InDesign crashes mid-save. It can be a great way to just reboot after a long week in front of the screen.
5. Ask for what you want. Because sometimes you might get it! I’m referring to work dreams, projects that are interesting and new, sitting in on meetings you wish you could sit in on. Not for extra vacation days or more Fiber One bars in the office pantry, although these things have their own importance. How else are you going to get to work on the things that really matter to you? And because sometimes asking for what you want can be terrifying, try writing it down in a formal e-mail or letter.
6. Make a 30 Day Challenge! This is inspired by a co-worker of mine named Chris Alvares. He does weird things for 30 days in a row (like not watch any television *gasp*) in order to make or break a habit. I’ve just now started a new 30 Day Challenge on reading everyday for fun instead of work, so we’ll see how it goes. But according to Alvares, this method works and has legitimately helped him. For designers, it’d be a great way to force yourself to do something everyday like draw in a sketchbook or design a new quote. There’s also this really cool app called “Don’t Break The Chain!” Download it on your smart phone to mark a red “X” over each day you complete your goal. Trust me, this app will make you feel really good about yourself.
7. Never try to write a blog post while listening to Outkast. You’ll really want to sing along and this will undoubtedly cause you to become distracted and then you’ll probably procra…….*2 weeks later*……stinate on finishing your little list of things you’re going to tell people to do as if you had any insight whatsoever.
GOOD LUCK AND GODSPEED. Let me know if you have any other tips and tricks, and I’ll compile a part deux. Thanks for reading!
XOXO, Gossip Girl