It approaches. The humidity takes a slight drop for a few days, and you can feel a refreshing feeling in the air. The leaves on the trees are still green, but a small portion fall to the ground and dry up. August is drawing to a close and September is coming. Another school year is upon us.
Many, if not most of you are way beyond this point. But for me, my final year of high school looms just a few short weeks away. The last few weeks of summer always seem to play with you – you know as days go by you are getting closer and closer to the start of a new school year, which puts a damper on the “fun” the last couple weeks of summer should really be about. Time is quickly running out, and before you know it, the 10 weeks of summer have vanished.
As soon as the school doors bust open, my motivation to do much design work usually seems to slam shut. Especially early on, that first month always seems to be a motivational killer. School requires a major refocus of time and effort, meaning books and school work take the forefront and Photoshop begins to collect dust.
Up until last year, it was that very reason which usually led me to take very few clients over the course of a school year. I usually did most of my client work in the summer, and let it take the back seat once fall hit. But beginning in my junior year, the on and off periods flip flopped. Last year, I found myself gathering ideas all day long, in various forms, while sitting in the back of a classroom. Pens, pencils, and pads are good for a lot of things.
The truth is, you don’t need a fancy to do list application or Photoshop in front of you to get your ideas down and out there in the open. I spent a lot of time throughout last year using the back pages in notebooks to draw up ideas for new sites, client work, and just about anything else I could think of. I’d sketch out design concepts (including some of the ones that later became versions of Devlounge), and label different sections with numbers, including notes on what I planned to fill each section with and how I could get it to work. Then, whenever I got the chance, I’d go into Photoshop and create rough mockups of my sketches and save them, so that even if I didn’t end up putting them to use, I’d have the ideas stored up for future work or projects. It turned out to be a fairly productive method, which explains why I took more clients last year during my “busiest” year of high school.
So my advice to you high school or early college kids who are still trying to become the best designer possible – don’t let school get in the way of your creativity. Of course set your priorities in the right order, but when you have time for it and ideas come to you, write them down! Whether it’s with words or pictures, it can really help you learn by storing all your concepts somewhere you have easy access to them. Here’s what I recommend:
- Extra Notebook – Score an extra notebook specifically for random things, such as sketches and notes. When you finish your work and your sitting there with nothing to do, rather than trying to sneak your iPod up through your sweatshirt so no one notices, take out your “design notebook” and start brainstorming. Get all your ideas down on paper.
- Don’t throw away any of your failed concepts. At the end of the year it will do you great justice to have a compiled notebook of failed and accepted designs. You can see what worked and what didn’t, and hey, you might actually learn something from yourself.
- Learn from usability mistakes right in front of your face. You’d be surprised, but you can pick up a lot of usability details from objects you use everyday. If you have a recently published text book, compare it to that old one from 1960 in the corner of the room. You’ll notice most books these days are much more clear cut; they draw attention to the important things and fill the pages with a lot more useful information then back in the day. Your likely to see just a bunch of jumbled text in the 1960 edition of the same book, but a lot more whitespace and vibrant colors to draw attention to details in newer editions.