Design Something Every Day!

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As designers, we’re all trying to get better at what we do. We surf the Web daily for hours trying to find useful tips and tricks to enhance our design skills. But what if we spent less time surfing the Web looking for inspiration and more time creating and designing things?

The Challenge

Someone once said, “Practice makes perfect“. While that statement might not be completely true, I do believe that practice makes you better. That is why in this blog post, I would like to propose something to every designer: Why not try to design something every day for one year?

Actors rehearse their lines until they learn them perfectly. Musicians practice their songs until every note is just right. Athletes practice their particular sport so they can excel. As designers, why can’t we do the same? Ask any successful designer in the community about how they have succeeded and they will attribute much of their success to practice. I challenge you today to design something daily. Take fifteen to twenty minutes that you would normally use to surf the Web today and devote it to designing something.

Most of you are probably thinking that I am out of my mind for proposing this. How can you, as a designer working either for a company or for yourself, find the time to design something daily? More importantly, how will I come up with design ideas for a whole year’s worth of projects? Well, to answer those questions, here are some practical tips.

Some Practical Advice

15 – 20 Minutes Daily

This challenge is for you to practice your skills. It doesn’t have to be a final, polished project, so you can limit it to a short period of time. Additionally, you can actually schedule this as part of your daily routine, which will make you more likely to follow through on your decision to design something daily.

And don’t worry or get discouraged if you miss a day due to other more important commitments. The key is to jump back into it as soon as possible. Keep doing it, and try your best to stay consistent. If you don’t find it reasonable to design something daily for a whole year, then you could try instead for one month, or another more manageable time period.

Design Ideas

You’re probably wondering how you will be able to come up with a fresh new design daily for 365 days. Actually, it’s quite simple. You can use a theme for your designs. Maybe for one month you can try to design something retro. For another month, you can try your hand at some typographic posters. The possibilities are endless. A good example is Jessica Hische. She started a project called the Daily Drop Cap41, where she designs a drop cap2 every day and makes her Drop Cap designs available for free download.

Z3
Daily Drop Cap41 is Jessica Hische’s personal project: she designs a drop cap every day and makes her designs available for free download.

Another thing you can do is experiment5 with different ideas that you have. Maybe you’ve been thinking about doing a collage effect, for example. You might have an idea that you’ve been wanting to try, so this might be the perfect time for it. You can also use this “practice time” to try out different tutorials that have caught your attention.

Be Accountable

Some of us will have a hard time staying motivated during such a lengthy commitment. One way to stay motivated is to create a blog specifically for tracking the project’s progress during the year, and post the results daily. People will be expecting to see something from us and this will keep us motivated.

This method of blogging daily for one year has recently been popularized in the mainstream movie Julie and Julia6, which follows American author Julie Powell’s year-long attempt to cook every recipe from a famous cookbook by Julia Child, while blogging about the experience7 each day. In Powell’s experience, her accountability was part of what kept her motivated for the 365 days.

Another way to stay accountable and keep motivated is to get a fellow designer to do the challenge with you. During the year, you can show each other what you’ve designed each day, allowing for some healthy, friendly competition.

It’s Been Done Before

As mentioned, the concept of blogging daily for a full year has been done before in a variety of contexts. It’s also been done successfully by a lot of great designers. Here are some designers that I have asked about designing something daily.

Stefan G. Bucher – The Daily Monster

Daily Monsters Website8

Daily Monster9

How long did you design / have you been designing daily?
I filmed myself drawing Daily Monsters10 for 100 days straight (including weekends and holidays). I capped it at 100 days since I also started animating the Monsters in more and more elaborate ways as the project grew. Since then I’ve done month-long bursts of Daily Monsters, and also documented the making of the book 100 Days of Monsters11 as a daily process. These days I usually do Monsters with lots of animation for special events or occasions.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?
The main challenge for me is integrating a daily practice with the demands of my regular work, and my occasional attempts at having a social life. There are just so many hours in the day, and it becomes a nerdy endurance challenge. The process itself is great, though. The real challenge is to not block out everything else.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?

  1. I got to draw every day again after almost stopping entirely for a few years.
  2. I’m getting better at creating characters every day.
  3. I’m teaching myself how to animate in the process.
  4. When I release the Daily Monsters daily it quickly attracts a great, active, and creative audience of kind, amazing people.
  5. Doing something every day short-circuits procrastination and self-doubt. There’s only time for doing, and doing = happiness.

Where do you get ideas for your daily designs?
The Monsters are a process. As long as I sit myself down and do the work, I don’t have to worry about ideas; they simply appear. That’s the best part. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson now, but I still fall out of the habit, and get right back into my head. “What am I going to draw? Is this any good? What’ll I do next?” When you’re committed to putting something out there every day, you just don’t have the luxury of doubt. And if something comes out a little wonky, well… you know you can redeem yourself the next day.

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?
Don’t think about it. Don’t plan for it. If I had thought about how much work the Daily Monsters would be, I’d have never started. If you get an idea for something, just sit down and start doing it. Also, you might consider not telling anybody about your daily project until you’re a few days or weeks into it. Commit to it, but allow yourself some privacy to work out the early kinks. Most importantly: Make sure you don’t ever skip a day. If you know you’re going out of town, or if you feel a cold coming on, create a few posts in advance. You mustn’t skip a day. As soon as you’ve skipped one day, it becomes so much easier to skip the second. And then you’re screwed. But here’s the thing: You won’t want to skip. Doing the Daily Monsters was completely addictive. I got to be proud of something I’d done every single day.

Matt Lyon

Make Something Cool Everyday Flickr Group12

Matt Lyon13

How long did you design / have you been designing daily?
I’ve been designing on a strictly daily basis since January 1st this year… It was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?

Most of the challenges centre upon either time or inspiration, but it’s these challenges that form the reason for doing daily work alongside other commitments.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?
I’ve discovered plenty of benefits over the year, but I think that these have been the most valuable:

  1. Keeping the creative juices flowing
  2. Working in different ways as a means to overcome potential obstacles (e.g. creating a piece of work with limited materials or within a strict time limit)
  3. Daily work inevitably improves your skills / craft, be it in terms of drawing, using creative software, etc.
  4. Daily work creates its own momentum in terms of recurring themes, directions and ideas, that will feed into other work.
  5. The process instills and supports a sense of discipline to work.
  6. Allows for experimentation and unadulterated freedom to try anything out.

Where do you get ideas for your daily designs?

All of my work evolves from drawing, and for a while many of the themes and ideas in what I create have generated over time through the process of just letting things happen. Simply put, I take a line for a walk and see what happens, be it in response to something I’ve read, heard, or am just feeling. There are no rules – this is my time to do what I want.

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?
I would recommend anyone and everyone with an interest in image-making to take up the challenge of creating something every day. My ‘drawing a day’ project has been so rewarding to me this year that I’ll be continuing it come 2010. Illustrators or character designers should keep a daily sketchbook to keep their ideas fresh… Alternatively, taking a photograph a day can prove just as valuable for others. Perhaps graphic designers or typographers could do a ‘layout a day’ project?! Who knows?! The sky’s the limit!

Joshua Wysocki – Wysocki Weekday

Wysocki Weekday14

Wysocki Daily15

How long did you design / or have been designing daily?
I started doing those dailies since November 25, 2007 — so over 2 years now.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?
The biggest is trying to keep at it on a normal pace. You probably noticed how I have missed a lot of days so far. Working a 10+ hour day-job wears me out and my brain can’t handle holding the pencil in my hand.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?

Benefits? Are there any? Maybe it’s the thought of continuing a project. Training yourself to be expressive and challenge yourself creatively. Making new friends and communicating with fellow artists. And hopefully eventually making some money from selling zines/books.

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?
Just jump into it and doodle a small event that happened to you that day… from something as small as stepping into a puddle of mud, or watching your favorite TV show.

Brock Davis

Make Something Cool Every Day 200916

7-Twelve17

How long did you design / have you been designing daily?
In my job I think of ideas every day, but this project for 2009 is the first time I put to task
making a new piece of art every single day for a year.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?
Coming up with ideas I feel are original. I always strive for originality — it is almost impossible to attain
but the effort often conjures interesting results. Another challenge is simply finding the time to do it.
I have a full-time job in a creative field, so I have to separate my professional ideas from my personal
ideas. I have a family as well, so I tend to work late and think when my children are in bed.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?

  1. Keeps my brain fresh.
  2. Helps me identify my strengths, weaknesses and consistencies.
  3. Creatively challenging, and I love a challenge.
  4. Improves my ability to hone in on an idea and learn to execute it quickly as well as meticulously.
  5. Shows me creative sides to myself that i didn’t know I had.
  6. An interesting way to visually calendar my year; I can look at a piece and think more clearly about what was going on that day.

Where do you get ideas for your daily designs?
From everything. I try to absorb as much from every day life as i can. Also, memories from childhood, pop culture, observations of how the world is always changing in all aspects (socially, technologically, economically, etc.).

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?
Have fun and always be a student. No one can know everything, it’s better to absorb and learn all the time. Then apply that to your work and let it influence you to reshape it into something original.

Mike Duesenberg – 365 Album Covers

365 Album Covers Tumblr18

365 Album Covers19

How long did you design / have you been designing daily?
I’ve had the idea for quite a bit, but I didn’t start actually doing it till October 31st of this year.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?

The biggest challenge is time. Some days are so busy, it’s hard to make time for this project. The idea is to dedicate an hour or two to the design, but sometimes the day flies by and you aren’t left with much time, which then affects the quality. So that’s been the biggest challenge. The second biggest challenge is trying to stay inspired. For 365albumcovers.tumblr.com20, I use http://www.flickr.com/commons21 as my photo source. The problem I’ve been running into however is that after a while, all these vintage photos tend to direct each piece in the same direction. So to solve that, I’ve been brainstorming up some ways on how to add more variety.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?

  1. Daily projects keep your mind working.
  2. It’s a nice creative break from the typical day-to-day design work.
  3. It gives you a chance to experiment with ideas that you may not be able to use on other projects.
  4. It gets your name out there! For instance, like this interview. It can be good press for you, as a designer.
  5. It’s nice to share these with friends and see what their feedback is.

Where do you get ideas for your daily designs?

I usually wait to see what the photo, band name and album name will be. Usually one of those will automatically inspire me to go towards a certain direction.

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?

Just have fun with it. Think of an idea that you can manage to do every day. The main reason you should do this is for self progression. If it gets some attention from other people, awesome. The problem I ran into is keeping it fresh. You may notice that I haven’t posted something since mid-November. I consider the first entries a trial run. I learned from it. Now I’ve compiled a few ways to keep the concept new and exciting to myself, which I plan on launching January 1st. So stay on the lookout!

Tom Judd

Tom Judd’s Everyday22

Tom Judd23

How long did you design / have you been designing daily?

I spent 1 year from November 2004 drawing a page a day, then in July 2007 I repeated the process for another 365 days.

What are some challenges associated with designing daily?
Keeping the motivation. Maintaining originality.

Can you give me at least 5 benefits of partaking in this daily project?

  1. It improved my drawing skills.
  2. It was a great way to generate ideas.
  3. It emptied my brain.
  4. It allowed me to fill empty time with something productive.
  5. It got me lots of work.

Where do you get ideas for your daily designs?
Each day was different. I think that is one of the benefits. You never know what you are going to see on your way to work.

Any advice for anyone who wants to get started doing this?
Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. As soon as I became aware that other people were looking at my daily output, it started to affect the work I was producing in a negative way.

Daily Projects Showcase

Jessica Hische – Daily Drop Cap

Daily Dropcap24

The Daily Drop Cap is an ongoing project by typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische25. Each day (or at least each work day), a new hand-crafted decorative initial cap will be posted for your enjoyment and for the beautification of blog posts everywhere.

Thomas Fuchs – A Heart a Day

Heart26

A Heart a Day27 is a blog by freelance illustrator, Thomas Fuchs. His goal is to incorporate a heart into one of his illustrations every day.

Chow Hon Lam – Flying Mouse 365

Flying Mouse - Cow28

The FM 365 Project29 is the result of Flying Mouse’s Project of doing one design per day for a whole year! Every week there are 7 new products available! These 7 new products are able for a quick pre-sale at a lower price for the entire week and once the week ends there are 7 newer products to replace them, and so on.

Mark Weaver

Mark Weaver30

Mark Weaver31 is another designer/illustrator that decided to design something every day for one year. He has a plethora of styles in his designs.

Philip Tseng

Philip Tseng32

Philip Tseng33 has a unique style that he implemented into his daily designs. He chose a theme of fruits and vegetables and each day he designed something that started with a different letter of the alphabet.

Jonas Buntenbruch – DONE: Daily Design Workout

Daily Design Workout34

DONE35 was the personal daily design workout of Jonas Buntenbruch for 2008.
Every day he flexed his design skills by creating one piece in 30 to 60 minutes. The presented works range from scrap and sketches to photos, typographic experiments and random creative designs.

A New Year’s Resolution

Now that you’ve read interviews and seen some strong examples, I hope that you’re now inspired and ready to start on this wonderful daily design adventure. I want to propose a new year’s resolution to you: design something every day.

Each time you design something, you can submit it for everyone to see. Simply tweet the design along with #daily365 and everyone will be able to see your project. By the way, if you’re just starting out as a designer, this is an effective way to build your portfolio. The Smashing Editorial Team will monitor all submissions and present them in posts here at Smashing Magazine, every now and again. I guarantee that at the end of the year, you’ll be able to look back and say that, because of the daily design project that you completed, you’re a better and more well-rounded designer.

So who’s up for the challenge?

(ll)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://dailydropcap.com/
  2. 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_cap#Types_of_initials
  3. 3 http://dailydropcap.com/post/227050517/orem-ipsum-dolor-sit-amet-consectetur-adipiscing
  4. 4 http://dailydropcap.com/
  5. 5 http://designinformer.com/benefits-experimentation/
  6. 6 http://www.julieandjulia.com/
  7. 7 http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/08/25.html
  8. 8 http://344design.typepad.com/344_loves_you/
  9. 9 http://344design.typepad.com/344_loves_you/
  10. 10 http://344design.typepad.com/344_loves_you/
  11. 11 http://www.amazon.com/dp/1600610919/
  12. 12 http://www.flickr.com/photos/c86/sets/72157611998305019/
  13. 13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/c86/sets/72157611998305019/
  14. 14 http://wysockiweekday.blogspot.com/
  15. 15 http://wysockiweekday.blogspot.com/
  16. 16 http://itistheworldthatmadeyousmall.com/projects/msced/
  17. 17 http://itistheworldthatmadeyousmall.com/projects/msced/
  18. 18 http://365albumcovers.tumblr.com/
  19. 19 http://365albumcovers.tumblr.com/
  20. 20 http://365albumcovers.tumblr.com
  21. 21 http://www.flickr.com/commons
  22. 22 http://www.tomjudd.co.uk/everyday/
  23. 23 http://www.tomjudd.co.uk/everyday/
  24. 24 http://dailydropcap.com/
  25. 25 http://jhische.com
  26. 26 http://www.aheartaday.com/
  27. 27 http://www.aheartaday.com/
  28. 28 http://flyingmouse365.com/shop/about-fm365
  29. 29 http://flyingmouse365.com/shop/about-fm365
  30. 30 http://cargocollective.com/markweaver#130825/MSCED-Series-Eight
  31. 31 http://cargocollective.com/markweaver#130825/MSCED-Series-Eight
  32. 32 http://www.flickr.com/photos/pilihp/sets/72157611976641503/
  33. 33 http://www.flickr.com/photos/pilihp/sets/72157611976641503/
  34. 34 http://done.jbunti.com/
  35. 35 http://done.jbunti.com/

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

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  1. 1

    What a great idea ! I am not a graphic designer, but interested in this field. I will join this challenge and see what will happen in a year :).

    p.s. comments are welcome in any language :)

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  2. 152

    I made this my homepage.

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  3. 303

    I thought I would join the wave of artists / designers / developers and regular Joes like myself in the New Years resolution to design something every day. My idea to take a household item and use it to create a character.

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  4. 454

    I really want to give this a go. I don’t have a decent camera so I’d be wasting my time with the Flickr 365. But I’ve got photoshop and I love learning new techniques! Great idea :)

    0
  5. 605

    I’m up for the Challenge. As a designer and the owner of Paige1Media and Paige1Publishing I design and work with a lot of Authors and writers. One of my favorite design pieces is created bookmarks for them and their readers.

    0
  6. 756

    Yes!I am going to so do this.

    0
  7. 907

    Yeah i’m in!
    I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now, and this is the push i need.
    Thank you SmashingMag!

    0
  8. 1058

    To participate please use Twitter (Each time you design something, you can submit it for everyone to see. Simply tweet the design along with #daily365 and everyone will be able to see your project. )

    1

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