Statistics experts say that 30% of us have already given up on our New Year’s resolutions. That’s most likely because many of us set formidable or ambiguous goals. If you’re one of those 30% or are on the verge of abandoning your resolution, don’t despair. Simply ask yourself, “Have any of the world’s problems ever been solved by not eating chocolate?” Of course not. We just need to set some goals that fit with who we are as creative pros. With the goal of making ourselves better freelancers, more valuable team players, and more creative, um, creatives, here are some jumping off points to improve mind, body, and soul in 2016.
For the Mind
You’re probably very familiar with Lynda.com for online training. With over 4,000 separate courses available via an “all-the-videos-you-can-handle” monthly subscription, it might seem overwhelming as to where to start. Luckily, there are several curated playlists to act as a springboard. My favorites to jump around in are the Print Production Workflows and Get Started with Digital Publishing playlists.
If you’re looking for Adobe training, why not look to the source itself? Adobe TV videos feature well-known Adobe evangelists, as well as the very people who are responsible for bringing your favorite software to you. Adobe TV features more general “channels,” like design, web, and photography. I also tune into the What’s New in Creative Cloud playlist when new versions of those apps appear.
CreativeLive offers a mix of live and recorded training. While workshops are being broadcast, you are free to tune in and watch gratis, paying only to download or stream the recording afterwards. The live portion allows for interaction with other students and the chance to ask questions of the instructor. With channels including art & design, photo & video, and music & audio, there’s plenty of creativity to choose from.
Udemy is another choice for online training, with topics covering creative pursuits to academics to business. The design category is further broken down into web, graphic, architecture, fashion, interior, and user experience design, among others. Udemy offers free courses, student reviews, and often offers deep discounts. I recently picked up a 7+ hour course for $10 on a topic that’s been on my to-do list for far too long. Check out Udemy’s list of the best graphics courses they offer.
We all know that if we don’t know how to do something—from fixing a washing machine to fly fishing to how to cut cauliflower—there is probably a video demonstrating it on YouTube. The same goes for learning design topics. It’s more of a hit and miss on the quality, but you can usually track down a video that explains a particular task you need to learn. If you’re the trusting type, you can even check out user-created playlists or use a hashtag.
One of the best bangs for your buck can be to attend an industry conference. The face-time you can score with instructors and others in your field are oftentimes worth the price of admission. The same lovely folks that bring you CreativePro are responsible for PePcon (The Print + ePublishing Conference) which covers publishing and print production topics. If you’re looking for sessions focusing more on software-specific topics, check out CPN’s InDesign and Photoshop Conferences or the Adobe-centric MAX. Digital Arts UK just published their list of design events to plan for in 2016.
For the Body
Just because you’re sitting at your desk all day, doesn’t mean you can’t get in a little exercise. If you’re not ready to commit to a treadmill desk yet, try this Kickstarter-backed under-the-desk elliptical pedaler called Cubii. The creators wanted something that didn’t just mimic a bike, but was designed for desk usage, including eliminating banged up knees.
If a regular old chair isn’t giving you the workout you need, you might look into alternative seating. From ball chairs to seating that will make you feel literally tipsy, check out the roundup of seating options Huffington Post threw together. I am intrigued by the Wobble Stool. And also very frightened at the same time.
Although the research isn’t conclusive on how effective an ergonomic keyboard actually is at preventing repetitive stress injuries, I swear by mine. Since mine is about 15 years old, I worry that I’ll have to get a new one soon, and I’ve been eyeing the Advantage Contoured USB Keyboard by Kinesis. It’s not as large as many split keyboards and the keys are recessed to reduce stress on the wrists.
For the Soul
For me, there is nothing better for my soul than to read about my craft. I absolutely adore seeing what others are up to, reading how to improve, or just being filled with creative inspiration. Reading books that are written by passionate creative professionals dusts off any cobwebs that my creativity has acquired and brings new excitement to my work. Print Magazine recently listed their Top 25 Design Books of 2015 (hat tip to David Blatner for posting this).
I realize putting a time tracking and billing solution in the “for the soul” category seems odd. But spending too much time on tracking the money, instead of pursuing your craft, can be damaging to your soul. One of the highest-rated time trackers is Tick from Molehill. You can set multiple timers for tasks (and have the info pour right into your billing), and even integrate it with BaseCamp project management software and QuickBooks for billing. In addition to the desktop version, Tick comes in iOS, Android, and Apple Watch varieties.
One thing that really gets me fired up creatively is hanging out with like-minded souls. If you work alone or from home you often have to seek out that network of creative types. A good place to start is your local AIGA chapter. The largest design professional association, AIGA provides members professional development through local meetings and events, in addition to promoting the business of design to the world. Meetup is also a great place to find local creative folks and talk shop (often in a social setting), as is The Boss Group’s Creative Connects. Whatever your interest, you’re likely to find others in your area to geek out with over design and collaborate on projects.
Isn’t there an old saying about inspiration being good for the soul or am I mixing adages again? Probably, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true! As visual artists we need to take time to observe design and let it inspire us. I like to wander through the magical garden known as Behance to check out what everyone else is doing. A new font of inspiration I stumbled on recently is the Inspiration Grid. Just be forewarned that going down these paths often lead to hours spent finding your way back out of the rabbit hole. Well worth it, though.
The start of a new year is a great time to assess ways to improve and nurture your craft in the coming months. Investing in assets is a great way to breathe some fresh air into your design. Places like Creative Market are like a grown-up kid’s candy store, with many items available for under $25. Whether you’re looking for WordPress themes, vector icon packs, photos, fonts, or add-ons like Photoshop brushes, Creative Market is full of high-quality bits and bundles sure to satisfy any creative’s sweet tooth.
And if you’re looking for nothing in particular, but want to see what’s out there for your shopping pleasure, you can always look at CreativePro’s holiday gift guide. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a special gift. I mean, you’ve already gone all of 2016 without chocolate, right? Go ahead, you deserve it.