How to Keep Improving Your Design Skills?

Dec, 2017

- By Advertising Department of ICAT Design and Media College

- An approach to advertising and graphic design assignments

Everyday tens of online stores, websites, mobile apps, newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters and banners vie for eyeballs. Advertising creates awareness of products and services that would enhance people’s lives. And graphic design helps achieve this by attracting and announcing the message to its prospective consumers. As design is to do with aesthetics, skilful arrangement of the various elements to meet the brief makes design attractive and appealing to the target audience.

Societal, cultural and technological changes impact graphic design and advertising art direction trends just like in other fields of design. It helps advertising art directors and graphic designers to keep themselves up to date in this changing environment.

Here are a few pro tips to help you develop into good graphic designers and advertising art directors.

  • Train yourself to identify good design:
    Websites like,, and are some of the portfolio sites where its members showcase their creative work. Make it a practice to visit these sites and see fellow-practitioners’ works as frequently as possible. Before clicking the latest work there, quickly scan the thumbnails to see what grabs your attention. There may be quite a few. Click those thumbnails to see what is in them that attracted you. Analyze the work — does the artwork communicate to you a clear message, is the art good, how do the colours work together and so on. Next, click on the remaining ones and do the same. Develop the habit of rating the work, identify the good, bad and mediocre, and soon you’d be designing as good as the best designers. If there are comments, read them. But, form your own opinion rather than allowing others’ opinions to influence yours. If you wish, you may download the good and bad ones for further study and reference.
  • Find inspiration:
    Inspiration is when someone or something gives us ideas for doing something, usually creative. Anything that triggers a train of thoughts in you leading up to some action is inspiration. It could be anything like random words, music, photo, illustration, a design or some human emotion you or someone had experienced. When something triggers a thought in you, see if it makes a connection with what you’re working on. If you see it has potential, develop it. To seek an inspiration, keep observing life around you. The step one discussed above is an excellent method for finding inspiration. The more we see, read, research and analyze designs and concepts, the better we would be inspired. We have to update ourselves on our areas of interest on a regular basis. We have to make our mind a storeroom of information and emotions from where we can take and use ideas whenever the need arises.
    But before you start looking for inspiration, there is one important thing that you have to do. Understand the brief and the design you’re expected to do. A good understanding leads to good design. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”, said the great Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. To find inspiration put your mind to work.
  • Make a moodboard:
    A moodboard is a collection of images, text, textures, audio and video, and other interesting things related to the project put together in any form. It could be a large printout, a digital document as in an image or a bunch of Power Point slides. It helps you get a good sense of the work you are doing and also explain through references to those the work is being shared with. If you are not able to make scrapbooks, you can create folders in your computers and store all the material that can be accessed easily.
  • Put pencil to paper, then start clicking away:
    While letting the brain do the thinking, put pencil to paper and scribble the ideas down. The designs could be sketchy or they may be somewhat detailed thumbnails and you may even use colours in them. The idea is to make as many options or variations as you can. Keep experimenting and keep making options. Try and make them different from each other. When you’ve done quite a few designs, stop and analyse the work critically and shortlist the good ones. (Remember what you were doing in Point No.1?) If you’re using a sketchbook, don’t make many designs in one page, spread them around. Try new designs in fresh blank pages by avoiding the old ones. Develop the ideas on paper rather than on the computer, at this stage.
    When you’re done with scribbles on paper, you may start your work on the computer. What you’re doing is making designs ready for production while fine-tuning the work done earlier. However, you should continue experimenting and making options as you’re working.
  • Give it a break:
    When mind and body become tired, give it a break and come back later. Actually it’s a good sign when you become tired. Your mind is telling you that you’ve worked hard. That’s good, isn’t it?
    When your mind is fresh and looking at the work done earlier, you may want to make improvements to some or may want to trash some and start something new. So, give a break whenever required, especially before finalizing your work.
  • Show your work to others, take feedback:
    When you reach a stage where you can share with others, show the work to take feedback. Show to people who don’t merely say the work is good or bad, but to those who could articulate their observations and give constructive feedback. Sometimes you would be surprised with observations they make, even when you have done a good job (or think that way). What you should be looking for is constructive criticism; honest and forthright feedback that would help you make your work better. Weigh the feedback and take what you agree with. If you don’t agree with some of the feedback given, you can reject them. But, always have an open mind in seeking feedback.
    Some creative people do not like to show their work in progress and take feedback. They may have their own reasons for it, and it’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own working style. There are no hard and fast rules in this. It depends on one’s temperament to show or not show their work.

The world around us is constantly changing and is becoming more competitive, thanks to technology. It is said that, “The only thing that is constant is change.” In this ever-changing world, keep your eyes, ears and senses open. Don’t just observe the changes, but absorb them. Be adaptive where you need to be.

Learning is a continuous process, keep at it and your designs would stay trendy.