What did you learn this year?

If you’re like me, tracking your progress as a designer can be a challenge. We put so much focus on what we’re doing right now, that it feels like we’re not making any progress in our creative journey.

It’s why it’s important to look back every now and then to appreciate how far you’ve come as a designer.

On this episode, I want to encourage you to do the same thing.

To start, it’s understandable why we don’t look back often. The nature of most of our jobs (like ad agencies or in house for large clients) requires so much of our time to be spent on billable client work. It’s not easy to make much time for ourselves. 

However, in most cases, the end of the year does slow down a bit. This is a great time to carve out some room, appreciate your progress and — like I’ve talked in past episodes — update your portfolio.

When I talk about looking back, I typically go back to the beginning of the year. I don’t like going much farther, because I like to keep in mind where my head was at with those earlier projects. I want to not only compare the final output, but the process that went into it too. 

I also like to compare similar projects if I can. In my own case, this usually involves a lot of print ads. Because I’m designing something similar over and over again, it’s a great yardstick to measure my progress. These days, I’m usually looking at very fine details in my work and marking some for improvement. Most of what I’m looking at is something many non-creatives wouldn’t notice — rather its the stuff designers would.

What I’ve learned already is how much better I’m getting at directing a viewer across a page and helping them remember the main message. 

That said, I still keep a critical eye on things. Am I still setting type the best way do the fonts that I’m using pair up? How about colors? Is there a better way that I could use them? I’m also reviewing the photos I use.

None of this is upsetting the apple cart in any large way. The little things I’m pointing out here can add up to a big difference in my work though. I also have to plot out how I can keep my work fresh. People’s tastes change and as designers, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. 

While I do critique myself, I also make some notes as to what went right. It’s not good to only nitpick the bad things. I enjoy reliving some of the feelings I had when I hit a home run with a project. Let’s be honest: it’s a nice confidence boost.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is also a great time to update your portfolio too. You’ve more than certainly learned new skills this year and they should be a part of what you’re showing potential clients. It’s also a great time to weed out any projects in your portfolio that aren’t serving you as well as they could anymore.

At the end of the day, hopefully it ends up drumming more business towards you, especially the kind of projects that you want to work on or specializing.

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