My motivation to practice has been sapped away as practicing feels more of a chore. I know the number one way to truly get better as a beginner is to do fake briefs and tutorials but they aren't motivating in the slightest. What are some ways to practice that are engaging and motivating?

Things I'm working on like my logo, digital and t-shirt design skills are some examples I'm looking to improve on.

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Finding work (as opposed to a job) is part of the motivation in (and reason for) creativity.

Any couch potato can think of a design job — a tee-shirt with four descriptive words that begin with the letter 7, or something. Big Deal. No wonder you're not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Finding work means that you have found a reason for your intervention.

For Example: I once asked a professional window washer how window washers found work. I was asking because I wanted to find out how a manual worker found employment in the growing computerized job market.

The answer was, "I look for dirty windows."

That changed my life. I began to look for dirty windows. When I saw a hand-made correction to a restaurant menu, I knew that the restaurant needed new menus printed. If I could see that they needed new menus, they certainly knew that, too. All I had to do was figure out how I would design the menu while I drank their delicious coffee, and give the manager my coordinates when I got up to pay for the meal. I found some dirty windows.

If I notice anything, it's because there's something that was perceptibly within my ability to affect change. The window was dirty.

The take-away is that what I do to motivate myself and stay in good practice is to continually work. I work on the real thing. I look for dirty windows. Look around. There are a LOT of Dirty Windows.

Here's a little secret I learned. The more creative and motivated you are, the more dirty windows you'll see that need your ability and talent.

Motivation takes many shapes.

When it comes from within (also called intrinsic), you will want to do something simply for the sake of doing it (e.g. having fun, having a purpose). To build on Lucian's answer of offering your work to real clients, maybe some non-profit cause strikes a chord in you.

When it comes from outside (also called extrinsic), it is more closely related to exterior factors (e.g. because it will make your life easier in some way, getting paid, getting recognition from peers, getting reputation points on a Q&A site...)¸

It is usually considered that intrinsic motivation is more powerful because it doesn't rely on anything else than your own self-drive. However, it's possible to build intrinsic motivation in time, by starting with extrinsic rewards.

Considering this, I think you need to do some introspection on what would motivate you most and build from that.

A few leads:

Intrinsic: What type of exercise do you find most fun? What kind of topics? What kind of medium?

I know that personally, I have a lot of fun learning new things and trying stuff I've never done before. I'll go from web design to silkscreening to photography and be happy. Part of these newly acquired skills transfer to my work.

Extrinsic: What outside factors do you think would motivate you most? Do you think you'd be more motivated if you got paid for your work (granted having a real client also comes with other aspects that are sometimes a lot less motivating than just the money)? Do you crave recognition or at least some kind of interaction with peers about your work? Then maybe working on shots on Dribble or setting a goal to reach on Behance could benefit.

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    Agree, but design in the long run is a service to other people so the best experience is gained by communication on some real work and getting real feedback. Then the satisfaction of seeing that logo you did on a client's truck. Just learning things theoretically and drawing in your notebook can pose limits at some point. I say go out there and grab it man! :) – Lucian Jun 13 at 17:49
  • @Lucian I agree experience is best gained through doing real work but the asker is asking about keeping motivated. I think for a novice the satisfaction of seeing the final result is awesomely gratifying but for someone who's been there and done that, it might just feel like it's all the same old daily stuff. Only the asker (or people interested in the question) can truly answer what motivates them and I think experiencing different things is necessary to be able to find that kind of self-awareness :) – Emilie Jun 13 at 18:05
  • @Stan Welcome! I wish we had more of these questions (and especially inspiring answers like yours) :-) – Emilie Jun 23 at 18:20

The best motivation comes from working on the real thing. Getting something approved and paid 5$ for is more educational than doing imaginary work. Find an uncle, a cousin, a friend's dad and ask if they need a logo for something. Offer to do it for free and if it turns out ok they can pay whatever they want. Then maybe they need a business card. This is how you start getting clients and hopefully start building a portfolio.

If working with relatives is a concern, find a local NGO, print shop, bakery, car dealer whatever small business that looks like having a logo from the 80's. Mail them and offer to do a free or pay-what-you-want logo redesign.

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    I agree with the "working on the real thing" as a potential motivator. I would however strongly discourage to work for relatives whether paid or not because the potential impacts can cross over into one's own personal life if things go wrong and that's always unfortunate. – Emilie Jun 13 at 17:18
  • True when doing serious work, but when no other clients are at hand and you're just starting out, family is usually more flexible and understanding. That's why I mentioned offering to do it for free or pay-what-you-want model. If it doesn't work out, he can just not charge anything. – Lucian Jun 13 at 17:21
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    @Emilie May I suggest a path between yours and Lucian's? Try telling your relatives that you would appreciate recommendations to their friends and colleagues for your artistic services. – Stan Jun 13 at 17:34
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    @Stan Full agreement here. It's much easier to mitigate the damage if only acquaintances are involved. – Emilie Jun 13 at 17:42
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    Being paid for your work is essential. Anything you get for free is worthless, by definition. At the very least, you must cover your expenses either in kind or by agreed equivalent value. Can they cook? Can you get a discount on their goods and services? There are many ways to be remunerated (great word.) – Stan Jun 13 at 17:47

What moves you? I often volunteer services for charities that I support. I treat these jobs with every bit as much dedication and professionalism that I do my paying jobs, and because they tend to offer more freedom than a paying job would, I find that not only can I practice and develop my skills, I can branch out in directions that may not be possible in "day job" project.

Are you willing to risk yourself? The answer is simple:

Show

The purpose of "design" whatever that means (I know what it means btw) is to be shown.

If your design is good, it will receive positive feedback. It can probably receive negative one, which could be potentially interesting to evolve.

This is my what to do list in a graphic designer's leisure time

  • Design or update your website or online portfolio. Having an updated online book is a must for a graphic designer. Coroflot has has some very good examples. Estimated time starting from zero: a week / week and a half. Update estimated time: two or three days

  • Participate in a Graphic Design Contest. Graphic Competitions is a web that usually publishes the most important ones and is periodically updated. Estimated time: depends on the complexity of the design to made

  • Create short animations and upload them to your Twitter. Visit Guillaume Kurkdjian's Twitter. Estimated time: a morning or afternoon

rita

  • Design a font. It sounds hard but it is a very complete design project where practically all the design elements are in practice. Choose a starting point: an icon, an image that looks like a letter, an advertising sign with few hand made letters... this is enough to create a new complete typography. Occasionally there are Typography Design Competitions where participate with a new design. Estimated time: five days to design, a week to get away from the design for saturation, five days to finish and optimize.

preference

font

  • Finally, and no less important, study, always study. The History of Graphic Design, like all the others, is full of interesting facts and information. Estimated time: a whole life.
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    Danielillo, Evidently, participating here at graphicdesign.stackexchange.com "motivates and engages" you. : ) – Stan Jun 15 at 15:49
  • @Stan Everything related to my profession motivates and engages me 💡 ✏️ 🖥 🖱 😬 – Danielillo Jun 15 at 16:35

you could try an approach where you pick a prominent brand's existing design and design how it could have been done better. It could be a logo or an app interface or marketing collateral. The aim is to come up with something better than an existing design that's already considered well designed (or poorly).

when you're done you could not only showcase it somewhere like Behance, where you compare it to the 'old vs new', you could also describe your design reasoning on the thinking behind the design. this would also come in handy when applying for design jobs in fields of expertise to the ones you did.

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