How does one challenge oneself in design? Any ideas for creating problems in order to solve them, as described here and in other random places around this site?
[Edit] This user needs both technical as well as artistic experience.

This question is being asked by a new designer (maybe) with no experience, trying to create experience in sign design (see linked question above), but is probably equally applicable to anybody on any experience level, in any specific design field.

  • I'm pretty sure we have a question about this broad topic already. Generally my suggestion is finding an organization on Idealist.org to do some volunteer work for, or looking up design competitions that interest you. But I'm not sure if you're looking for signage specifically..? If so then maybe SEGD (Society of Environmental Graphic Designers) has something, but I'm not sure.
    – Ryan
    May 27, 2014 at 13:52
  • @Ryan Signing up for volunteer work is probably not a good idea for someone with literally 0 experience. I went looking under the "training" tag...this is a pretty close fit to what I'm looking for, didn't see it before asking. Related as well. May 27, 2014 at 13:53
  • Also related but he has experience... May 29, 2014 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


This is a questions that definitely will get very personal answers, so here are some ideas based on the things I do to expand my own horizon:

  1. Follow tutorials. Magazines like Digital Art Projects usually have very cool hands on tutorials. You are bound to find things that are completely out of your everyday scope.
  2. Exercise your craft regularly, just for the sake of exercising. Like the body, a craft that does not get exercised gets lazy and weak. A very common exercise is to doodle or to sketch. No need to use a pencil or a pen necessarily. You could use the tools you feel more comfortable with. There are books like "Caffeine for the Creative Mind" that have daily projects to exercise your creative muscles. Create your own exercises.
  3. Be curious and critical about how other designers solved problems. If you are going for a walk and find a poster you like, question yourself why. Deconstruct it. If you find a sign that you find ugly or badly designed, question yourself why and ask yourself what could you have done to make it different. Role-play a bit. Imagine you are the designer, with a very tight time frame, a very mean client and a very small budget and try to think how you would have solved the problem.
  4. Try to replicate other designer's solutions, just as an exercise. Not necessarily with the tools they used. Use the ones of your own choice. The magic is in the making. There are things you can only learn by getting your hands dirty, even if you fail. Trying to copy La Mona Lisa using Illustrator meshes will probably (not necessarily) end up in a disaster but you will end up being an expert on meshes.
  5. Add restrictions to your workflow (if you have the freedom for it) and prohibit yourself from using the solutions and tools you are more comfortable with. This is like resistance training. It will force you to think outside the box and develop skills you don't have. Are you good with Illustrator? Make the next design totally on Photoshop. Are you good with photo-realistic imagery? Force yourself to create a vector flat looking solution next time. You rather not set copy? Force yourself to generate a typographic solution. Are you a neat picker (like me)? Then force yourself to finish your design in 10 minutes next time with no time to fuss.
  6. Come often to this site and try to answer questions. Even if you don't know the answer, try to solve the problem the OP has and see if you can post an answer that gets accepted before other users do.
  • WOW great answer...thanks! Now I have a lot to think about... May 29, 2014 at 19:01

Ask questions. — then, Find answers.

Anything. Simple, or advanced. Even if it's outside what you consider your field.

Experience and Intuition usually come down to how many problems you've tried to tackle in the past. – start now, take on anything. If you don't know how to do it, even better, research how it's done. Keep building and learning.

If you see a product, try to find out how it's made, how it's printed, how did that artist make his design... etc. etc.


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