Top 3 Challenges for Sharpening Your Professional Skills

Once in a while, you just have to try something new and take a design challenge. There are a lot of good reasons to do it, really. You can add conceptual designs to your portfolio. You can blog about your experiences, and advertise your skills in doing so. You can take on a design challenge with other designer friends, and perhaps compete. You can gain a greater understanding of the technology you use. Today we’ll talk about some design challenges that can help you become a better designer.

The point is to do something differently from the way you usually do things. Change for its own sake isn’t always advisable, but trying new things is how we grow as designers, and as people. Just maybe don’t do any of these challenges on a client’s site unless you’re absolutely sure they’ll like it.

  1. Try to Build Something New

This is actually our personal go-to challenge. We try to build something—usually something to do with the layout—that we haven’t built before. It could be an effective and accessible horizontally-scrolling interface, a three-column site we actually like, or a full-screen responsive background image with absolute positioning.

This is a challenge where you get to try out newer CSS modules or techniques you might not have thought of before, without worrying too much about cross-browser compatibility or other issues like that.

  1. Change Your Colors

We know that we personally are always tempted to stick with what we know works, as far as colors go. We love our muted shades of colors, grays, desaturated greens and blues, and so on. Unless you’re required to follow a specific style or branding guide, it can be easy to fall back on what you know works.

Well, get right on out of your comfort zone! Build a site with a color scheme you wouldn’t normally go for. For our team, that would be using more bright, and bold colors. We’d have to turn up the saturation in general. For you, you might consider a dark layout, if you usually do light ones. Use calmer colors, if you’re prone to going bright and bold. Many of us aren’t using enough contrast in our designs. Try adding more. Try a design that’s totally just black and white, and make it work.

  1. Design and/or Code a Site Using New Tools

If you’re used to a well-known framework, try a lesser-known one. Try a different pre-processor. Try a different CMS. Try a different file manager or text editor. If you’re a programmer and/or like challenges, drop your favorite JS framework, and try another.

Obviously, if you want to go in-depth this would be one of the longer challenges, but it doesn’t have to take too long to learn the operating principles of new tools. The key is not to necessarily change everything about your workflow, but to expose yourself to new and potentially better ideas.