How to break bad designer habits?

In this message I’ve decided to collect some of my thoughts on how to get rid of bad freelance designer habits, having to do more with psychology than professionalism, as well as how to break bad design habits in order to develop creativity and bring some fresh air into your work.

First, let’s talk about some ways I’ve worked out to teach myself how to look out of the box that might be useful for other designers. The thing is, a lot of professional web designers, especially those having a lot of years of experience, have developed their design handwriting — they’re constantly using the same design elements they are used to, like gradients or permanent sets of icons, or web 2.0-style mirroring images and so on. After you use these things so much it’s hard to switch to another thinking and bring some creativity into the process, however, I’ll give you some tips on how to transform your traditional web design into a creative web design.

Your task now is to start thinking differently and forget about the things you used before, I’ll offer you a couple of exercises to train your creativity and generate new design ideas. They are quite challenging but also fun.

The first exercise is to create a web design, where your list favorite color dominates. It’s gonna be hard, but this task will help you think about other ways, except for the color, to bring in some aesthetics onto the site and forget about all those fashionable light blue, green and grey colors.

Second task that will help you improve your potential in creative web designis to make an image-free website. You’ll use only one color for the background, text and space will be your only decorations. By doing this exercise you’ll look at content structure in the new light, learning how to accentuate the importance of elements using size and spacing.

Third exercise is called Anti Web 2.0. design. This time you’ll have to forget about all those annoying features of web 2.0. style, like mirroring objects and light colors, use pixel fonts and dark palette. As for the result, you’ll be surprised how rather old-fashioned elements will obtain a new look in the modern web design you’ve created.

And the last exercise I used is low resolution design. Your task is to forget about spacious screens and develop a layout for a PDA or a cellphone. Structuring elements into a special orderly hierarchy, leaving some unessential things behind and intelligent data grouping might be a hard task to complete, however this challenge will help you push yourself a bit and develop non-standard thinking.

Second part of my message is general bad habits freelancer designers have in relation to their work and clients, getting rid of them you’ll be able to increase your productivity and technically even improve your life. I even developed a list of those habits to work on:

  • Not responding to clients’ e-mails — it’s easy to fix this problem by allocating all your mail in one mail client, this way you’ll see what’s what and it’ll be easier to answer all the letters
  • Working without a contract, or violating it — having a contract will save your time and health in case if there are some troubles or arguments with your client
  • Underpricing your services, not asking for prepayments, not charging for additional services you provide — some freelance designers cut down prices thinking this way they’ll get more projects, but agreeing to work for less money you’ll actually make the same amount of them, just for a longer time. Except for that, many of your potential customers might thing that your prices reflect the quality of your services and will go looking for someone else to do their website’s design.
  • Bad schedule — being unable to organize your working day you’ll lose more time on unnecessary things and never manage to do everything on time, be careful, this way you might have problems with your project deadlines!
  • Overworking — no comments needed, it’s just not right in terms of health and well-being.
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