10 Ways to Create Better Things

How many times have you seen a killer piece of art, a fresh design or a video that breaks all the rules (and still works) and found yourself jealous for not creating it yourself? If there’s one universal among creatives it’s this: We all have an insatiable desire to create better things. We want to push ourselves beyond our current boundaries in skill and talent to become stronger designers.

With that in mind, here are ten ways to challenge yourself as a creative to design better things or, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “Make good art.”

1. Be Your Best (or Worst) Critic. Evaluate your work. Be willing to throw away good design to pursue the best. Don’t settle for done. Also, don’t worry about the time you feel you’ve wasted in an unsuccessful project. That time is valuable. Which leads me to me next point.

2. Fail Better. Samuel Beckett once said, “Fail. Fail again. Fail Better.” If you don’t make mistakes how will you ever make anything of value? Want to create better things? Get cozy with failure. Make him/her your friend.

3. Always tell a story. Stephen Brewster says, “Really good creative pieces are sticky, tell stories, and carry the conversation beyond the reach of the creator.” If your design doesn’t move those who view it, chances are it’s not telling a compelling–or sticky–story. You have an amazing story to tell; do your best to make it just as compelling (from whatever angle) in your artwork.

4. Find What Moves You. Be careful not to distance your designs from real life. In a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine, Bruce Mau says, “The difference between great design and design that misses the mark is empathy–the ability to make the human connection.” Find out what moves you and embed that emotion into your design. Make the human connection one of your design filters and you will grow as a creative.

5. Be Disciplined. Don’t fall for the myth of inspiration. Creativity is hard work. Anything worth it’s salt in design will probably have a long trail of pain, frustration, passion and pursuit. But the journey is worth it.
6. Break the Right Rules. It’s good to remind yourself that sometimes the rules of design are meant to be broken. If you find yourself at a creative roadblock try painting outside the lines. Get out of your creative comfort zone, stop using your go-to tricks and do the unexpected.

7. Challenge Yourself with New Mediums. Paul Arden once said, “If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.” If you want to grow as a creative, the need to expand your skills on new platforms is essential. This takes time and can be extremely challenging and complex but creating on a new medium will make you a better artist.

8. Study the Best. As a creative Ernest Hemingway studied the best writers and tried to defeat them at their strengths. He was cocky at times, but his goal was to beat every writer, living or dead, at their craft. Seek to be the best at what you do. Be competitive. Don’t be a wimp. (Don’t be a jerk either, but you get the idea.)

9. Make art that creates a conversation. Joel Lunenfeld, VP of Global Brand Strategy at Twitter, has often said, “The conversation is the canvas.” This is true for Twitter, but it’s also a solid concept to keep in mind when creating good art. Good art should provide space to extend the conversation, not end it.

10. Join the Community. Break the stereotype for creatives that says we like to work alone. Joining a community of creatives like will give you an outlet to share your work, view what others are doing and engage in the conversation. Commit yourself to a creative community. Be vulnerable. Share your work. Grow.

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