5 Tangible, Practical Ways To Challenge Yourself This Year
Beware – this list goes beyond the surface level challenges of “reading a new design book” or “learning a new quick key command”. This list is meant to challenge you to build better foundations from which to grow with other people, to be inspired, to love God with your mind, and to treat your craft with the discipline it requires.
1. NUDGE A NEIGHBOR
It is all to easy to slip by in class without saying hello to a single person, but establishing friendship with other designers is one of the most beneficial things for you.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
There is a great need for accountability among designers. Ask yourself – who, besides yourself and your professor, is keeping you accountable for bringing your best work to class? As important as it is to be introspective and create in your own world, it is equally as important to be in relationship with other designers.
When we surround ourselves with people who have the same passion but offer a different perspective, we are able to expand our own (small) world views. While maintaining a great level of respect, a space is provided for asking each other questions, receiving and giving honest critique, admiring each others work ethic and talent, working with and feeding off others, and ultimately exponential growth as a designer. We all need friends that are brave enough to be honest with each other, all the while still being encouraging and loving.
Not only will this help with your own design work, but it is a fantastic model for what the graphic design industry looks like. Unless you pursue freelancing, you will most likely be working with a team of other designers. You will become extremely valuable if you are able to communicate and work proficiently with others on a team.
Humans are naturally creatures of habit. We tend to sit in the same spot in class, take the same route to class, go about the day according to our established routines. Humans need a sense of structure and routine in order to get through the day.
But what happens when the routine becomes perfectly monotonous, uninspiring, and a drone of the same events day in and day out? Recognize this moment and break out of it. The solution is to alter your course. Alter your course of walking to class, your course of making big choices, your course of what you are comfortable with, your course of routine.
It is highly important to seek inspiration outside of the computer. Channel your inner spontaneous, child-like imagination. Seek inspiration in the wondrous daily moments that you may have otherwise missed. Altering your course keeps your brain active and strong which allows you to be fully alive in the present.
3. MIND OVER MATTER
“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’…” Luke 10:27
There are many theological implications for loving God with each of the human elements listed (heart, soul, strength, mind). For the purpose of this article, consider the latter human element of the mind. What does it mean to love God with our minds?
To love God with your mind means to pay attention. Yes, pay attention. Understand – the act of paying attention is NOT the muscular effort of clenching your brows or holding your breath. The act of paying attention is viewing your education as an opportunity as opposed to an obligation. What would it mean to treat your graphic design classes as an opportunity? View your academics as an opportunity to equip yourself with skill sets, tools, experience, and wisdom that God will use in ways that you may never understand. Academics are a training ground and a launching pad from which you may go out into the world and be a steward for His Kingdom. Treat it as such!
Not only does it benefit your development in your craft, but practicing paying attention will benefit the way that you pray. Paying attention is essential for prayer. You will be open to hearing and seeing God in the daily moments. You will make space for finding truth, recognizing patterns, and understanding others. It will wake you up to the world around you that is deeply physical and deeply spiritual.
4. PUSH YOUR MARGINS
Meet my friend John Doe. John Doe is a fantastic graphic designer (unbeknownst to the world). John Doe has a specific set of skills and talents that he brings to the table. When John Doe lacks inspiration and has creative block for a project, he whips out his toolbox of skills,
go-to fonts, and design style that he believes is foolproof. His work seems to look exactly the same from project to project…
Don’t be John Doe.
The point is, everyone has their go-to design style… which is fantastic! Without our roots, we would be nowhere. However, there is a point when the boundaries need to be pushed. A point where the roots become a trunk. A point where the trunk spires out to a branch. A point where the branches bear fruit. If you can figure out how to push yourself to places that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar, the better design you will produce.
Plan out a design that you want to accomplish and then figure out the steps to get to that outcome. Push the boundaries of your mind and skill-sets and you will become a more valuable designer.
5. GIVE UP THE GLORY
Perfection is always going to be a far fetched idea. It’s an intangible thing, unless you’re referencing statistics, or something of that sort. Instead, consider the concept of perfection in terms of design. It’s something that no one will ever reach, until someone claims they’ve whipped up the “perfect piece!” That is, until one critic says otherwise — perfection, gone.
Perhaps, there needs to be a perspective shift. Rather than striving for perfection, we as Christian designers need to be striving for excellence.
Excellence, by definition, means “The quality of being outstanding or extremely good.”(Oxford Dictionaries) Now that seems to be a lot more of a tangible idea, but why is it so important? Simply put by Paul in 1 Corinthians, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Paul writes this in the context of lawful and unlawful eating of sacrificed food, but conveniently puts in the “or whatever you do” part to remind us that we should aim to glorify God in all thingswe do. Striving to produce extremely good work, is a direct representation of how we view and honor God. So, in your creating, challenge yourself to keep that in mind. How is your work glorifying God? Every pixel you make, every font that you choose, your aim to produce great work, pleases and glorifies God and you’ll be happy to find the outstanding work you’re left with.
You’re hopefully thinking now, “Great! Time to go strive for excellence!”… Not so fast. Paul writes earlier in that same passage, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 10:24) Understandably, design is a competitive industry. That, however, is not an excuse to be unconcerned about how your strive affects those around you. If you have to bring others down to lift yourself up, it is not going to be pleasing to God, therefore, does not glorify Him. In your striving for excellence, aim to not only focus on your benefit, but the benefit and well being of others as well – that they may too benefit from the effects.
Strive for excellence, not for your own promotion, but for the promotion and glory of God.