How I Became a Better Designer by Completing the 100 Day Design Challenge
Nowadays one half of Medium is complaining about the unreal designs published on Dribbble. The other half of the design community is writing articles about why concept art is important. Here’s what I think after completing Paul Flavius’ design challenge.
When I first noticed Paul’s designs it took me 2 seconds to decide: I’m going to do this! I often felt that I’m a quitter, so it seemed to be a good opportunity to prove myself the opposite. I also wanted to sharpen my Sketch and Principle skills and it seemed to be the perfect challenge for that. 2 hours later I uploaded my first design to my Tumblr. (I didn’t have a Dribbble account by that time.)
The first days were easy. I enjoyed every pixel of the designs, and the positive feedback I received from fellow designers. I created my designs late in the night, so when I went to bed, I was super excited about how my designs will perform. It won’t be a surprise, that things changed. 100 days is a lot. I knew that it won’t be easy but I haven’t thought that the 100 days will include a lot of obstacles. Exams, super busy work-days, a conference and well… I few long nights with not that few beers.
I made it.
To be honest it makes me really happy, proud and motivated as never before. I experienced a lot during this time, let me share the most interesting things with you now.
Likes come easy, quality feedback doesn’t
I bet you noticed that 99% of the comments on Dribbble are like “Cool!” “Nice!” or maybe “Wow!”. These compliments are good for our self-esteem, yet they are not useful at all. I was really grateful when I received constructive criticism. The reason is simple. These people took the time to have a look at my design, think about it, and ask questions. Instead of commenting “Nice!” again help other designers to improve by providing quality feedback about their work. Believe me, they will be grateful! (You can start with this post. I would be happy to hear your feedback!)
The term designer porn actually exists
One thing I realized is that there are certain things the designer community is triggered by. I bet you know what I’m talking about! We all know that those beautiful curved lines (so called “stats”) give every designer the chills. They can be total nonsense, but if you have your curves and colors right, you will get those likes. Don’t get me wrong: creating these things can be still useful for the designer. But if we stop for a moment we have to admit that sometimes we, designers act really dumbly.
After 50 days you know that you’ll make it
So I said that I often thought that I’m a quitter. In the first few weeks I was sure that I won’t make it, and I’ll give up. But as the days passed I became more and more confident that I’ll finish the 100 days. From around day 50 I was sure that no matter what happens, I’ll do it. During the last week I had 3 exams in 3 days but I felt that I would rather fail my exam, but I must finish this. The community helped me a lot. I was a small fish in the sea, but I still thought that those people out there are expecting me to do my design, and I can’t let them down. So if I can give you one piece of advice I would suggest you to make your deadlines visible.
Don’t start if you won’t do it everyday
The most difficult thus the most useful part of the challenge is to do something on a daily basis. When people say that creating 100 contextless designs is a waste of time I disagree. Do something for 100 days and have this conversation after you’re done. Doing a 100 days streak gave me the most benefits, but I’ll get back to this later. I wouldn’t say that it’s useless if you skip a few days when you’re busy or tired, but come on, this is the fun part. Don’t miss the fun part, challenge yourself!
You will benefit, but not the way you thought before
When I started this challenge I thought that I will learn how to design better looking interfaces. I thought that I will improve by becoming a pro Sketch or Principle user. I was wrong. I improved a lot but it has nothing to do with software skills. Instead I learned self-discipline, time management and I found a huge amount of motivation. These are pretty important things for a designer, right?
On one hand I have to agree with those who claim that these designs are pointless. It’s true that they won’t make you a better problem solver or won’t increase your empathy. But don’t forget the soft skills I mentioned above. They are important, and they can be improved by challenges like this. The funny thing is that you don’t even have to design anything to have these benefits. You can write something everyday. You can exercise everyday. You can start to learn a language or an instrument - the key is to do it on a daily basis. In my opinion that’s the real benefit of this whole design challenge thing.
You always have the time
How many times I said that it would be awesome, but I don’t have the time. It’s a lie. You can have a lot more time by having better time management. I spent around 2 hours each day creating my daily designs. It was shocking to realize how many hours I wasted before. If you’re like me I would suggest you to revise your daily routine. Find the hours when you don’t do anything which you will benefit from. Find those days, hours and minutes and do something useful instead. You will be thankful for yourself, I promise.
Am I better at Sketch? Can I create better animations? Probably. Did I become a better designer? Definitely.
Not by being able to design better interfaces but by learning a lot about myself.
Go create something amazing today!