5 Design Habits You Should Develop

You often hear creative professionals proclaiming how their career isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle. To some extent this is true, but I do pray they get out a little bit and aren't the bore at a party who won't shut up about the power of negative space to the polite individual opposite nodding encouragingly, yet downing their drink at the same time just to make this rambling soul opposite them bearable. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is there are certain habits you should exercise as a designer, but luckily for us these can also feed into having a social life and expanding beyond the walls of your career. 

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1. Sketchbooks

This really is a must. A sketchbook process is very personal, and often for your eyes only. Develop confidence and be at peace with making mistakes, a sketchbook is not a finished publication but a journey of progress. Explore different media's and push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow.

I often flick to a random page and whack out whatever creative concept I'm feeling. This way, if it doesn't turn out in the perfect way I envision (which unfortunately happens a lot) - it doesn't disrupt the flow of the book. 

The contents of this sketchbook also don't need to be related to your path. I currently live on a farm and the landscapes around me are too irresistible not to immortalise on a page, or therapeutically; I will sit and collage from old magazines, creating nothing in particular apart from a pleasing composition.

A fantastic source of inspiration for how to start filling the daunting blank pages of a new sketchbook can be found within Minnie Small's youtube channel and in particular her series: 30 ways to fill a sketchbook.

2. Explore

Discover exhibitions, take long walks in new places, get into a Youtube hole of recommended music links, try out a new hobby... Stimulating your mind with new surroundings and experiences is an invaluable habit to develop.

As a designer your entire purpose is to create something new from nothing, how can you push your potential to the full if your mind is stuck in old ways and routines? Break your normal cycle and dabble in something that expands your horizons. 

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3. Read

This may be an easy one for me as I love a good book, but I appreciate for many reading is just not appealing.

Although immersing yourself in a good read can be a great way to unwind and unleash your imagination, it could genuinely just not be your cup of tea. 

Reading can always expand beyond a book, into a blog, article or paper etc. But in particular, this habit should be to read something you don't necessarily want to or wouldn't naturally be drawn towards.

For me, with the recent general elections, this has been articles from The Economist - not my standard choice of material (unlike my favourite novel Shantaram) but it's furthered my knowledge and understanding in topics I am otherwise oblivious to and can often spark something in my mind that I wouldn't usually be prepared for. Being aware of current affairs is also an incredibly valuable habit to have within a creative industry as these often lead trends or hint towards peak areas of interest. 

(Pssst... let me know if you want any book reviews or to look at my personal bookshelf as opposed to my fashion bookshelf. I would love to oblige!) 

4. Ask

I worry of being 'Jack of All Trades, Master of None', but recently I enrolled in a photography course, this has led me to have a richer approach to my lookbooks and compositions, our instagram is looking rather polished (if I say so myself) and my approach to eternal learning has had an injection of something new, leading to fresh enthusiasm and perspective on how to capture my designs.

For those tight on time and money: FutureLearn is a great resource for free online courses, often hosted by reputable universities. I have already taken a handful online which are a fun break during my 30 minutes for lunch. Stay curious.

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5. Practice

Finally, and most importantly, whatever you do or explore, practice. My Achilles heel is drawing faces. I am next level crap. Which is a bit annoying as a fashion designer.

So I set myself the task of practicing for 5-10 minutes a day. This can be carried out when I take a phone call and doodle on a pad in front of me, or in a more focused period sat at my desk and dedicated to the task of improving my skill. Let's not pretend I'm Picasso, they still look far too 'cartoony' for my liking, but the improvement is there and the perseverance is key. It's also great to see my own style develop. 

An invaluable tool to use is a website called line of action which provides reference imagery from poses through to facial expressions which you can set to suit your own time scale. Hosted much like an art class, you can start with quick 30 second studies moving through to anything up to a 1hour50min study. Another great resource is the youtube channel CroquisCafe which exercises similar principles. 

I encourage anyone to donate at least 5 minutes a day, even just for a week, to see improvement. Be sure to connect with Xandra Jane on social media and share your progress!