Trained to design
True story: I wasn’t born to be a designer. Nowhere in my childhood did I demonstrate such abilities that made my parents stop and say, “Our daughter is going to be a designer when she grows up!”
That said, there does need to be some form of creativity or talent to kickstart the design in the designer. Then it's all about time, commitment and repetition. The design practice is, well, a practice, and like so many things, you become good at something by doing it repeatedly. Practice your practice.
What falls under this practice varies from designer to designer, but here’s my rep list for building creative strength:
Learn to see
Most designers I know have a great appreciation for the details because it represents thoughtfulness and intention. Such details come in various forms and can be found in almost anything; from mobile apps to photography to furniture design. Designers love to isolate and praise details as a form of admiration to the creator. Next time you use an app you really like or sit in a really comfortable chair, think about that one thing that makes it so great.
Design with restriction
At some point in every designer’s career, he or she will be faced with some dry, undesirable work. I’m talking designing Powerpoint presentations, text heavy information brochures, anything that requires approval from a board or organization—basically anything that has layers of restriction beyond the designer’s control. However, it’s in these restrictions that a designer learns to make room for design. Finding a solution without breaking the rules is like winning a game without cheating and that's pretty satisfying.
Rep: Once a week
When it comes to client work, I’m a big fan of showcasing the diversity of design by offering solutions under 3 categories: Safe, moderate and risky. I do this to help clients visualize their business from different perspectives so they can make informed choices. “Safe” is usually something a client is familiar with or done in the past. “Moderate” is something more evolved and aligning with present day objectives. Finally, “risky” is exactly as it sounds—something that's often unpredictable. Few clients ever want the “risky” solution but it’s important to make it an option so they can expand their business or brand. Also, as a designer, it’s a great way to show innovation and creativity that might otherwise never have a chance in the spotlight.
Rep: Every project, if applicable
I haven’t touched on the technical side of design because I honestly feel those skills are a given. Designers should constantly be brushing up their Photoshop or Illustrator skills from an execution level and learn new techniques as needed. It’s the cognitive side that’s a bit harder to grasp and requires more attention and commitment.
Train your mind and the practice will follow.