As a designer, entrepreneur and thought leader, I read and learn on a daily basis. Why do I do this? To stay up to date and to be able to innovate and inspire people. The digital design industry is competitive and ever-changing, so it’s nearly impossible to know everything. That’s why it’s important to create your own learning workflow for keeping up to date with not only digital design trends but trends in any industry.
Our world is evolving at such a rapid pace that no human being is capable of catching up.
“The only thing constant in life is change” ― François La Rochefoucauld
One of my friends shared a fascinating thought with me recently. We’re living in such an amazing times that we can do whatever we want. Nonetheless, there’s a downside of having too much information that leads to endless opportunities and ultimately decision-making paralysis.
How do you keep up with the evolving industry and latest technology as a digital creative? You certainly need to allocate some time for it, and you must adopt “forever-learning mindset”.
Everything Should Be Consumed In Moderation
You can read many blogs, listen to numerous podcasts and subscribe to tons of newsletters. But there’s this sweet spot you need to find first to ensure that you don’t overdose on information and learning process doesn’t become a time wasting process.
Design Your Own Workflow
It’s all about personal preferences and workflow. For some people like me reading physical books is way more immersive and enjoyable. Rather than mindlessly consuming article after an article without really getting in-depth insights.
Learn To Say No
Being able to say no to mediocre content frees you up for the extraordinary. Allow yourself to reject ten so-so pieces to be able to focus on one longer, thought-provoking idea that will feed your curiosity, knowledge and creativity. Like anything in life, it’s hard to say no when you’re constantly under peer pressure, mass media influence and the surrounding environment. Develop your own evaluation criteria for consuming any type of content, whether it’s a video on YouTube, a book, an article or podcast.
Recently I started to curate my reading list on Goodreads and found out that I physically have no time to read all the books I want to. From now on I purely rely on the rating, if it’s above 3.9 I’m adding that book to my reading list.
For articles, I started to rely on Medium, Prismatic and StumbleUpon. These platforms have recommendation engines with smart algorithms that suggest me the right content or, at least, show how many people have enjoyed it.
It’s Not All About Doing But Also Big Time About Not Doing
It’s better to read nothing than to read just about anything. These days there are numerous articles written just to convert a reader into subscriber or customer, or simply for SEO purposes. By acknowledging this fact and focusing on what not to read or consume, you’ll do yourself a favour and free more time for better content.
Find Reliable Sources
Some individuals and companies are sharing high-quality content consistently and don’t push you to become their customer or a fan with salesy content. Makes sure to do your research and stick to only the best you can get, even though you might get some value from other sources. If something is very important, you will find out about it soon from other sources including your trusted ones.
Not so long ago, I was completely cut off for 10 days from the world and I can tell you one thing. Fear of missing out or FOMO is not real, there is nothing so significant happening that it will completely change your life. If you’re destined for success you will reach it one way or another. What successful people have in common is they never rush, there is no need, give yourself time to think, evaluate and shape your own opinion. The world doesn’t stop turning if you don’t read one or the other article.
Do Some Work For Free
My personal philosophy is to never work for free. However, taking up pro bono work will allow you to try out new ideas, implement experimental solutions and come up with innovative ways to solve real problems. Push yourself into unfamiliar industries and make yourself creatively uncomfortable to open up new way of thinking and unlock your inner genius.
Failure is scary. But it doesn’t have to be. What if I told you one little secret that will change your perception of failure forever? Treat everything you do like an experiment.
You come up with a hypothesis, conduct an experiment – fail or succeed. Then you analyze the results of that experiment. Constantly remind yourself that you are not your work. If people are criticizing your work, it’s just feedback on your experiment. If you treat your work as an experiment, you can’t be wrong because experiment succeeds or fails, not you.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
It’s imperative to unchain yourself from the daily work and go wild with ideas to create whatever you feel is right. After all, there is no universal right or wrong – your thinking makes it like that.
Learn Something New
According to The Telegraph, regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills. There are numerous studies and research papers conducted showing that learning new things like language or drawing can increase your IQ, which means more neuronal connections that can transfer information faster and make creative knowledge connections that will blow your mind away.
Learn a new language, learn to code, learn to dance, all of the activities will lead to new experiences, higher self-esteem and eventually more creative and fulfilling career.
Two heads are better than one. It’s very easy to get defensive with your ideas, try to protect your ego and work on something alone. The thing is if you don’t want to kill great ideas because of your ego, you need to collaborate. To stay up to date and be able to innovate team up with other great minds and you will see yourself creating extraordinary things and advancing your industry.
Eventually, you will be hired for the work you do with passion and get excited about. In late 2013, I teamed up with Paula Borowska and started working on the Mobile Design Book which was released last year. It was an exciting way to really dive deeper into the mobile design and had some fun producing the book.
There are dozens of online communities designed to help you to find a co-founder, idea or simply a member for your project. Check out WeekendHacker, Build It With Me, CoFoundersLab and Founder2be just to name a few.
Work On A Side Project
Make some time to work on a side project. It doesn’t have to be goal-oriented or have a particular meaning, as Tobias van Schneider says in his interview, side projects should be stupid.
“In the end, people’s greatest side projects are themselves and their careers.” – Tobias van Schneider
The main excuse I hear from people is “I don’t have time”. Then make time, quit watching TV series, quit gaming, think about limiting time spent on social media and many more ways you waste time. If you really want it, you will find a way. Otherwise, you’ll come up with an excuse not to do it.
Meet New People
Having great ideas is not enough, you need a strong team, mentors, advisors and customers. In modern society, success is highly influenced by who you know. Focus on expanding your network and making friends rather than staying in the basement, building the next big thing no one will find or care about.
“Your network is your net worth.” – Tim Sanders
Push yourself to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people who conquer the status quo and create innovative products for the world to push your own limits.
While meeting people physically can be very time consuming, take advantage of the power of digital networking. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ are just a few places where you can start interacting with like-minded people, ask questions, join discussions and form relationships.
Listen to people, help whenever you can and share valuable content. Make sure to connect with your digital contacts in person whenever possible, it completely changes the relationships and takes it to the higher level.
There is always something new to learn, ways to polish your skills and advance in your field. Below are some of my favorite websites for learning new things.
TED – amazing and inspiring videos on technology, entertainment and design.
Skillshare – high-quality courses for creatives and entrepreneurs.
Udemy – thousands of courses on every imaginable subject.
Codeacademy – interactive and free coding courses.
Medium – a platform that connects amazing storytellers and readers seeking for inspiring stories.
You might be interested in this massive list of 30 best websites to learn design and development.
Keeping Up To Date With Books
Reading books must be the best way to advance in your career and learn the most. Authors invested years in the research writing these books and you can access it instantly.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace – From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business.
Neuro Web Design by Susan Weinschenk – The only book that examines the intersection of psychology and user experience and why people take action on a website.
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton – The definitive guide to using typography in visual communication, from the printed page to the computer screen.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal – This book introduces readers to the “Hook Model,” a four steps process companies use to build customer habits.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman – A best-selling book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman about how design serves as the communication between object and user.
Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro – From contracts to selling design, from working with clients to working with each other, you’ll learn why navigating the business of design is just as important as the craft of it.
Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter – Learn how to express your brand’s personality and delight your audience through emotional design.
Design for Hackers by David Kadavy – Award-winning designer David Kadavy uses “reverse-engineering” process in this book to deconstruct classical design principles and techniques for web designers.
Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte – Learn how to think beyond the desktop, and craft designs that respond to your users’ needs.
Mobile Design Book by Paula Borowska and Tomas Laurinavicius – a small book about designing mobile apps. Hey, I wrote it, you should definitely check it out!
Also, make sure to check this comprehensive reading list for and by designers compiled by Margaret Kelsey of InVision.
Test Out New Products
If you like trying out new things and to be amongst the early adopters, there are entire communities focused on upcoming products that you can become a part of and start using very first.
BetaList – get early access to over 100 new internet startups each month.
Product Hunt – discover the latest mobile apps, websites, and technology products that everyone’s talking about.
Launching Next – discover new startups, great startup and business ideas.
Startupli.st – is a place for early adopters to find, follow, and recommend startups.
Get Worm – discover startups based on your interests who are creating some exciting rewards for you to join them early.
Read Blogs & Magazines
Reading blogs and magazines will provide you unconventional ideas, opinions from the experts and inspire you to take action towards your goals.
Fubiz – a massive resource for modern culture, art and design inspiration.
Smashing Magazine – an online magazine for professional web designers and developers, with a focus on useful techniques and best practices.
Designmodo – a design blog focused on publishing web design articles and tutorials.
Design Taxi – outstanding ideas in design, art, photography, advertising, architecture and more.
Abduzeedo – a collection of visual inspiration and useful tutorials.
You might want to check this amazing compilation by Katy Cowan of 100 fresh blogs and websites for creative professionals to follow in 2015.
Use Curated Link Sites
Let people do the hard work for you. Some people are constantly reading news and rate them, so you can get only the best content through these curated link sites.
Sidebar – a simple yet powerful concept, the 5 best design links, every day.
The Web Blend – a community for designers, developers and tech junkies that keep you current with a summary of the latest news.
Hacker News – a social news website focusing on computer science and entrepreneurship.
Designer News – a community where design and technology professionals share interesting links and timely events.
Speckyboy’s Weekly News – This is a weekly news archives where the best free resources, tutorials and most in-depth articles from the design community are shared.
Getting latest news is easy. It’s also time-consuming and can turn you into a procrastination machine. Use the following tools to get relevant content on topics you care about.
Flipboard – a great tool to find out what is going on in the design field.
StumbleUpon – a free web-browser extension which acts as an intelligent browsing tool for discovering and sharing websites.
Nuzzel – social, real-time platform that allows you to see the news that your friends share.
Prismatic – choose topics you are interested in and get the best content recommendations.
Panda – an easy way for designers, developers and entrepreneurs to discover great useful content.
Muzli – an add-on for Google Chrome that provides you inspiration and useful resources for designers every day.
Feedly – subscribe to your favorite RSS feeds. Easy to organize, read and share.
Notey – a collection of the world’s top independent publishers and bloggers.
Browse Design Galleries
Without galleries and powerful platforms that allow you to discover and share your work, you won’t be able to innovate and connect with like-minded creatives. Luckily, there are numerous quality design galleries and communities to inspire you.
Inspiration Grid – Bringing you the best creative stories from around the world.
MaterialUp – get the best of material design in your inbox, weekly.
DeviantArt – the world’s largest online social community for artists and art enthusiasts, allowing people to connect through the creation and sharing of art.
Behance – a platform to showcase and discover the latest work from top online portfolios by creative professionals across industries.
Awwwards – the website awards that recognize and promote the talent and effort of the best developers, designers and web agencies in the world.
Dribbble – one of the biggest show and tell platforms for elite designers.
Appscreens – curating the best product & startup videos.
PatternTap – a collection of specific designs and user interaction patterns where designers can learn what works well and why.
Designspiration – a resource to help you discover and share great design.
Site Inspire – siteInspire is a showcase of the finest web and interactive design.
iOS Icon Gallery – showcasing beautiful icon designs from the iOS, Mac, and Apple Watch ecosystems (curated by @jimniels)
Pttrns – the finest collection of design patterns, resources and inspiration.
UICloud – The largest user interface design database in the world.
Little Big Details – your daily dose of design inspiration.
Subscribe To Newsletters
You might be suffering from the “constant-email-checking” syndrome. Make it useful for yourself by subscribing to some of the best newsletters in the creative world. Get curated content, save time and stay up to date.
Despreneur Newsletter – bi-weekly newsletter for designers & entrepreneurs to get the hottest design, technology and entrepreneurship news.
Red Lemon Club – make an impact doing your thing, a newsletter for creative entrepreneurs.
The Smashing Newsletter – a bi-weekly email newsletter with useful tips, tricks and resources for designers and developers.
Hacker Newsletter – a weekly newsletter of the best articles on startups, technology, programming, and more.
Tobias van Schneider – exclusive project updates, inspiration and personal musings.
Paul Jarvis – lessons for creatives & freelancers on making their businesses work on their own terms.
Webdesigner Depot – a newsletter packed with quick bits of news, inspirational resources as well as cool new products and services for designers.
NewsletterStash – hand-curated directory of the best newsletters.
Listen To Podcasts
Podcasting is quickly gaining its momentum all around the world. It’s a great way to learn something new when commuting to work, jogging or simply trying to kill some time. Most podcasts are informal and share real life stories from designer’s and entrepreneur’s life.
Rocketship.fm – learn from successful entrepreneurs each week about strategy, growth, and so much more.
Creative Commoners – a weekly podcast for everyday people trying to maintain creative pursuits amid the demands of home, work, and family.
The Accidental Creative – a podcast focused on building practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work.
Style Guide Podcast – a small batch series of interviews on Style Guides, hosted by Anna Debenham and Brad Frost.
Let’s Make Mistakes – a podcast about design with Mike Monteiro, Liam Campbell, and Steph Monette.
Responsive Web Design Podcast – interviews with people who make responsive redesigns happen, co-hosted by Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte.
Boagworld Show – a weekly show hosted by Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington joined by designers, developers and website owners.
HackToStart – a podcast focused on interesting people and the innovative ways they achieve success.
The Fizzle Show – fun, actionable and inspiring show for creative entrepreneurs.
Product Hunt Podcast – a weekly podcast by Ryan Hoover with founders, investors, and product people in the startup community and tech.
Invisible Office Hours with Jason Zook and Paul Jarvis – a weekly podcast for people that aren’t confined to a literal office or that aren’t confined by conventional thinking.
Dorm Room Tycoon – interviews with the world’s most influential thought leaders in business, design and technology.
Utilize Freebies & Resources
I’m enormously grateful for the creative community for putting so much free stuff online to be able to learn and simplify everyday life as a design entrepreneur. Below are some of the best resources for design freebies.
Oozled – one of the largest curated list of creative resources online.
Startup Stash – a curated directory of resources & tools to help you build your startup.
Freebiesbug – hand-picked free PSDs, code stuff, free fonts and other resources for web designers every day.
Dribbble Freebies – an ever growing collection of design freebies provided by Dribbble community.
Despreneur’s Freebie Pouches – monthly collections of the latest freebies from all over the internet.
There are many ways to stay up to date as a digital creative. In this article I’ve shared some of the experiences I went through that helped me to stay competitive, connect with industry leaders and land clients. How do you keep up with the rapid pace of ever changing digital world?
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