Design

Design Success: Practical Tips to Weather the Coronavirus Storm

June 10, 2020

At the start of this year no one could have guessed the sharp turn the world would take, but we’ve all done our best to adapt to the new normal. Designers especially have been impacted by coronavirus; whether that took the form of getting laid off, losing clients, or learning to juggle working from home with homeschooling their children. Despite this, many have found a silver lining and worked their way toward design success. Continue reading below to hear practical tips from two designers.

Making the Most of Extra Time Indoors

There are a few upsides to being stuck in doors. For example, we no longer have long commutes that take hours out of our days. And that leaves many of us with extra time on our hands to make use of any way we like. Some parents might use the time to help their kids with lessons, others might use it to meditate or exercise. No matter how you choose to use it, no one can argue that more hours in the day is a bad thing. And with many companies extending their work from home mandates through the end of the year (and permanently for Twitter employees), a more flexible workplace might be on the horizon once employees are permitted back in offices. 

Beyond the typical commuting hours, for those who have lost clients or even lost their jobs, there might be an extra eight hours free each day. As designers seek out new work, there are a number of things that they can do to stay productive and creative. To learn more we talked to Molly Maine of Molly Maine Creative

We asked Maine about the tips she has for fellow designers who want to use this time to achieve design success. She told us that based on having fewer client projects she “decided to use my spare time to work on all the projects I’d previously neglected, such as developing my portfolio, updating my website, and taking online courses, to [brush] up on the ever changing digital skills that designers are expected to have. I also committed to an hour of drawing every morning, which really helped to boost my creativity and get my ideas flowing… I’ve found that spending creative time ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ your business is invaluable; it not only improves your skills and credibility as a designer, but it can rejuvenate your confidence, boost your ideas, and ultimately help you to land bigger and better jobs in the future.”

A photo of Molly Maine, designer in London.
Photo courtesy of Molly Maine.

Her spot-on suggestions give us lots to unpack. So let’s dive into each one on its own:

Improving Your Presence

Whether you’re looking for a job or not, having an updated portfolio and website would be a smart move. You never know when a hiring manager for your dream company will stumble upon your website. Greet them with your latest and greatest work to put your best foot forward. 

Take an Online Course to Improve Your Skills

The design industry moves at the speed of light, meaning that your skills can easily get stale if you’re too focused on your work. Frame this extra time in the day positively in order to take stock of what skills you need to improve on. If you haven’t interviewed for a job in several years, you might want to check out job listings for design positions in your industry that match your experience level. There you are likely to find the new programs that employers expect new hires to know. If you’re on the job hunt, this can help your application shine. If not, you might even be able to negotiate a higher salary or take on new kinds of clients with your newfound skills. 

Jon Wretlind, Creative Director at Beyond Blue Media, concurs. He suggests creatives in search of design success, “Spend some time learning new skills that you haven’t had much time to focus on. There are a wide variety of places where you can learn and grow as a designer or developer; Lynda.com, Skillshare.com, and Udemy.com are just a few learning platforms.”

Make Time for Exploring Your Creativity

Learning and working are great uses of time, but what about your passion projects? Not everything has to be revenue-generating to benefit you greatly. Wretlind reminds designers to “Pace yourself. Creative professionals need to have balanced periods of input as well as output. You have to manage your creative energy and preserve it for larger, more difficult periods of intensity.”

One activity that Maine focuses on is drawing in the mornings. If drawing isn’t for you, you might want to paint, play an instrument, or dance. The possibilities are endless, really. Taking the time to explore your artistic brain can give you a much needed break from the mental strain of working during a pandemic. And you might just come up with the solution to challenges you’ve been facing after immersing yourself in something you love. 

A woman focusing on her painting bathed in warm light.
Make time to create things that bring you joy.

On the note of exploring your creativity during these strange times, we also wanted to address a few other ways to take care of yourself and regenerate your creative juices. 

Creative Inspiration for Design Success

There are so many places to find design inspiration, as we’ve mentioned in the past. Among the most notable for Maine were podcasts and virtual museum tours. She highlights Creative Pep Talk, Design Matters, and Creative Rebels because they allow her to hear from inspiring designers and they never fail to help her generate ideas. 

As for the virtual museum tours, there’s nothing quite like poking around a gallery for a few hours, taking a tour, and maybe even eavesdropping on funny conversations between fellow visitors. But when museums are closed to the public and art shows are put on hold, a virtual visit is certainly better than nothing. Maine enjoys finding inspiration at museums in normal times. She tells us that she was “pleased to discover that lots of museums and galleries are offering virtual tours of their shows which I have been enjoying (such as Tate Modern).” While Maine lives in London, there are many other museums around the world that also offer virtual tours, such as: New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre in Paris. 

After your creative juices are flowing, it’s eventually time to get to work. Next we explore unique productivity hacks to optimize your working hours. 

Productivity Hacks for Designers in a Pandemic

We’re all for getting the most out of our working hours to ensure that we can achieve our work goals, while maintaining a good balance with our personal lives. But with mandatory work from home policies, distractions can abound. That’s exactly why we wanted to explore productivity tips to help achieve lasting design success. 

 An hourglass sitting on a desk with books and pens in the background.
We know you’ve heard about the Pomodoro technique, but what about these other time management tricks?

Project management tools like Trello, Asana, and Monday.com are very popular and for good reason. They allow for easier collaboration and updates, especially when we’re no longer mere feet from our teammates eight hours a day. Maine is keen on Trello when it comes to staying organized. She explains, “I have created a list for each day of the week, and each morning I drag my tasks into priority order, noting how long I expect each one to take. This helps me to be realistic about what I can really achieve in one day and manage my time effectively.”  

Wretlind makes use of Trello, as well as Asana. However, his particular time management hack centers on “David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) methods. By focusing on a simpler list of next-action steps instead of large projects, I find that I can be more organized and less overwhelmed when I am super-busy.” This is certainly something we want to implement in our own workflows! 

For those who want to take it a step further, Maine suggests hiring a business coach. But if you don’t happen to have the extra resources on hand, she recommends finding an accountability partner; having someone to check in with on a regular basis who holds you accountable to your goals is surprisingly motivating and a great way to kickstart productivity.” We can certainly attest to design success hinging on efficiency and follow through, which are much easier to accomplish with an accountability buddy. 

Final Thoughts

Coronavirus is really taking a toll on the world, but many designers are fortunate to be able to work and learn from home. With this extra time in our days, we hope that you’ll be able to take time to reflect, create, and set yourself up for design success. 

What tips do you have for fellow designers to help them thrive during the pandemic? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio.

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